Monday, April 28, 2014

Wild Animals live before your eyes

Wildlife Cams

Decorah Eagles

Sportsman's Paradise live cams

National Geographic Crittercams

Hancock wildlife cams

Ustream TV live cams

Pixcontroller wildlife webcams

Audubon Society top ten webcams

Global Animal cams

Berry College Eaglecam Blue Cavern – guardians of the sea

- Enjoy, and also check out .

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hacking the Hacker

I was deep into an algorithm for a recognition engine. We were rapidly forging ahead with our transaction program. Since we had completed two other projects, this was going to be our last, crowning achievement at this year's Hackathon.

“Hows it going, Jack?” A shadow leaned over me.

“Not too bad. I have the bare bones, now I'm tweaking it.” I paused, resenting even this interruption, and took another swig of my energy drink.

Sanjay peered over my shoulder, and studied what I was doing.

“Video purchase? So you are stubbing the video file itself?”

That man was fast. “Yes, the temp file anyway. It preserves the purchase record even if we delete it off an intermediary server. Then the software can re-copy it, and the billing is preserved.”

“Not bad, Jack, not bad at all.” Sanjay grinned, and gave me a thumbs-up. That gave me a rush almost as good as the hypercaffienated drink I was swigging.

“We have two hours to go. Keep it up, man,” said Sanjay. Then he moved off to the next coder.

There were ten of us in all, and you could cut through the hacker smell with a knife. Every hormone and brain cell in this group focused in on one goal: To put out this last jewel of a product, and take home a trifecta – the 2014 coding challenge trophy. Each member would also win a thousand-dollar scholarship, not to mention the name recognition.

But Theta Team and Omega Team knew this too. They had both put out some usable product already. This would not be an easy race: Whenever I glanced over at them, they were working furiously. They must be on to something. We had to move, or they would take the prize.

Another hour into it, and I was about where I was the last time. I had to tear down some of my main program to make room for more recursive checks and buffer writes.

Damn it. I may not be able to pull this off.

Sanjay hovered worriedly, offering help to one or another of our team. A fellow programmer, Ivan, took him up on it, and the two of them began digging in. He was working on the GUI. That was going to be our window to the world. I glanced over the rest of us – two rows of five geeks, typing away. Well, almost all were. Mason sat there on the end, just staring at his screen.

“Mason? What's wrong,” I whispered.

“Nothing, man. Don't worry about it,” and he waved me off. So I just ignored him and kept on with what I was doing.

I heard some swearing a while later, and looked at the computer clock.

23 minutes left. I was just about done. I chanced another look over at Mason. He was staring, and then typing. Damn it. I looked for Sanjay, but he was still working with Ivan.

“Sanjay!” I said, and when he looked up, I pointed at Mason. “Help him?”

Sanjay glared at me, and said, “Don't worry about him. Finish yours.”

Feeling pissed off, I tried to calm myself and dig back in.

If Mason spoiled it for all of us, I will kick his ass later. I need to finish and save my project.

So I kept at it. Soon, the last algorithm strings were saved. I switched to the IDE, ran it, and it crashed. Not unusual, since it was version.001

I went back and tweaked, and fixed. Finally, it ran without crashing, and accepted a test transaction. Got it on the seventh try – hooray! I looked at the clock. Four minutes left. I looked up, and two other coders were staring at me. I raised my arms and gave the thumbs up. They grinned, and returned the sign.

I looked to the end of our table, at Mason. He was just sitting and looking at the monitor. Tears ran down his face. Sanjay finally looked up from Ivan's desk. They had just finished. He walked over to Mason's computer, and looked to see what the problem was.

Sanjay put a hand to his mouth, and said, “Oh my. Mason, what in the hell? What is the idea?”

Mason turned to him and said, “I was hacked. I did not do this. They hacked my desktop. I was trying to get rid of it...” He threw his arms up, and then finally ran from the room.

Theta group let out a big shout. They had all finished, and even completed a fully integrated product. The event organizer came in, and looking at his watch, yelled, “Times up everyone! Looks like Theta finished. How about the others?”

Omega finished too, and shouted. The organizer finally came over to us. “What happened here, guys? Looks like you were close.”

Sanjay said, “We almost finished too, but unfortunately someone cheated. Look, someone hacked one of our members machines,” and pointed to Mason's desktop screen. The organizer walked over, and stared at the image – a nude image of Mason himself. I figured he must have posted it somewhere on the net, and an unscrupulous person had found it. All it took was for them to telnet into Mason's machine while he was networked with the rest of us, and not paying attention. The image was enough to distract him, upset him out of even trying anymore.

The event organizer cleared his throat, and then announced in a loud voice,

“All right. We have a new bonus challenge for the 2014 hackathon. The winner of this one takes all. The loser is the one who sent that image to one of Sigma Team's computers. We begin now!”

Despite any lingering fatigue, I dug in with a vengeance.

The End

Humming our Appreciation

We sing a hymn to the Almighty,
our voices coalescing around a tune,
some ahead, some behind, the sound confused
chasing itself, indistinct yet flowing,
a common frail human
aspiration to betterment.

Some of us are here, sitting in church,
young and old, rich and poor, man and woman,
Dressed-up children squirm and fidget.
But everyone is here, united in this hour
towards a higher attainment.

Forgive us, heavenly father,
for we are imperfect
yet aspire to be better.
Do not read our dirty minds,
just honor our sincere intent.

We know what we want
fantasize in many directions,
yet still know that we can
do better than our usual
expression of all appetites.

Help us along –
we are ever grateful,
your warped children,
whom you made and
always have to forgive.
Oh, and hey, thanks a lot.

 - end

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Act Two

     So now we have another Cold War. It seemed to spring up so fast, relatively speaking. One minute everyone was going to the Sochi Olympics, and the next we are facing off in the Ukraine. It is dizzying, how fast things can deteriorate. Makes one wonder if everyone has been watching too many episodes of some battle epic, or playing too many violent video games. Has everyone forgotten how expensive and dangerous a real war is?

      I was leafing through an old Time Magazine picture book of World War II today, and it really hit home just how all-encompassing a true world war can be. Families separated, never to be re-united. Young men, boys dying on distant fields for some ridiculous reason. A man who was saving scrap metal on his farm had it confiscated by the military. If you were the wrong race you were confined in camps (in the US) or gassed or worked to death (in Germany). Everyone was affected in countless ways, not to mention around 30 million dead. And this in a mostly pre-nuclear time, with conventional weapons (except for Japan at the close).

     Now the US and Russia still have many hundreds of nuclear missiles, and probably thousands of warheads. Enough to turn the world into a wasteland that would not sustain human life. These new leaders who have no memory of what a truly devastating war was like should think long and hard before starting a new one. There is no reason, religious, political or economic – no reason whatsoever for the destruction of all we know. No reason to destroy human civilization. Especially now when we are on the threshold of moving out into our solar system and enjoying a far greater bounty. Like many a stupid schoolyard fight, it doesn't matter how it started. It is time to put a stop to this nonsense, before it gets out of hand. The sooner the better. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The real zombies are here

Just think, a zombie you can chat with,
conversant with answers from the past.
They remember way back when our
present was created in various laboratories.

If you befriend one, they might even
buy you lunch or dinner, take you to
a movie, and sit through it without
asking if they can eat your brains.

Some of these zombies are parents,
grandparents or great-uncles.
They are also called by another name:
Baby Boomers –

– when long ago, they
were bright-eyed flaxen-haired youth,
wild and free and rebellious and creative.
Cars were made just for them, and they
generated mass movements and social changes:
a radical departure from anything seen before.

Befriend a living zombie today,
you might be surprised at how
much you enjoy their company.

 - end

Friday, April 18, 2014

That special time of year

The freezing mark stands firm,
no longer penetrated by temps;
Fragrant ground with active worms,
fertile for new plants to be set in.

Good Friday and time to plant potatoes,
onions and get ready for May tomatoes.
Grass greens up in anticipation of flocks
of violets and dandelions, a color tornado.

How high do I set my ambition this year,
when I would like to do a whole vegetable garden?
My time and bodily strength I hold dear,
So maybe I'll just settle for a row of zinnias.

The mowing and weeding are just around the corner,
so I may as well enjoy this honeymoon of mid-spring;
Yard yields up bright surprises, defying lingering winter.
Hikes in the woods reveal mysterious flowering things.

By the time summers drudgery arrives,
my garden will be well established.
Time for travel and long car rides,
Welcomed back by a garden that thrives...

...on inattention and a few lucky rainstorms.

Happy Springtime and Easter all.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A cultural phenomenon

Phasers on stun, full speed ahead,
Klingons off the port bow,
Torpedoes away! Direct hit!
Their weapons systems are disabled.
Their propulsion nacelles are destroyed.
They are dead in the water, Captain!

Before there ever was a Jim Kirk,
Spock, Scotty or McCoy;
There existed another fine crew,
Archer, T'pol, Mayweather. Tucker and Tripp
All flew the very first Enterprise.

The NX-01 broke through many boundaries,
cleared a path at an amazing Warp Five –
With rudimentary high-tech weaponry,
this crew held off many hostiles, and stayed alive.

Discovering many wondrous things,
Fighting various threats unforeseen,
As far as the warp engines could fling
the ship, much knowledge was gleaned.

Finally defeating the Xindi schemers,
The crew set the entire Timeline right;
With a final few pesky threats eliminated,
the NX-01 helped create the Federation.

Archer saved the planet, and went out a hero,
Kirk merely built on his enduring legacy.
Those other captains were shirttail hangers-on,
important in their time perhaps.
But Archer and the First Enterprise
Were the equal of Zephram Cockran.
Giants in their time.

(Just an ephemeral trekking muse for today –
I may change my mind after the next movie.)


sci link of the day

here you go:   

Brought to you by the author of this: 

Have a nice day.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What If

Our entire existence,
from the big bang to a future final whimper,
was nothing more than a school experiment?
Creation in one day, cessation in the next.

Some student makes fine adjustments,
compacts just the right particle mix,
applies trillions of Earth gravities...
Then drops the thing into a black bottle,
releasing the energy while observing intently.

The birth and death, destruction, loss,
cruelty, unjust travesty, disease, tragedy
all carefully studied and categorized.
Was it adequate for the assignment?
Would the teacher take points off for
happiness, serendipity, and good fortune?
Or add them for those same qualities.

We'll never know, as poof
goes our world – beyond our control.
But we can imagine such things.

So someone got a good grade that day...

Someday it may be us taking the test.

Sure hope we get it right!

To celebrate the Red Moon

Here is a link to some basic science facts, with supporting hyperlinks, in celebration of our recent eclipse, or 'Red Moon'


Monday, April 14, 2014

The Scientific Method

A four-step process of testing what we think we know about reality in all forms.   Something to remember in this day and age of mysticism and fantasy.  Fantasy can be entertaining, as long as it ends there.  Follow this link to read on and be enlightened...

Enjoy  :-)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Big event this Saturday

April 12, 2014 - will be at the Ankeny Authors Fair with 39 other local writers.   We cover every genre from mystery, through science fiction, to Romance and more.   From 9 AM to Noon.

Hope you can make it.   Here is the official Ankeny Page.    See you there.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

In Pursuit of Excellence

Most of us seek a higher goal of one kind or another. We are in pursuit of a particular kind of excellence – excellence to improve our lot, and the lot of those we love. Whether it be in our careers, or a particular hobby, to achieve excellence and success is what most of us desire.
One does not become excellent at any pursuit without some sacrifice. You cannot climb Mt. Everest with only a weeks' training. You don't start a business and get to the million-dollar mark in a month. Every meaningful college degree is gotten only with many hours of study, years of classes and the like. A very high degree of achievement takes a lot of work, let's face it.
But of course, it pays off. The one percenters running our world did not all have it handed to them. Many had to work their way up the ladder, rung by painful rung. They had to go where their bosses wanted, do what they were told, perhaps take more schooling on the side. The ones who persevered, and maybe had luck on their side as well, made it to the top. Luck may play a role, but luck alone will not produce excellent results. Hard work can in effect create its own luck too.
So, here are a few ideas on pursuing and achieving excellence in whatever you set out to do.
Work on your desired outcome or objective every day. Don't let anything stand in your way, either. If there is some emergency, handle it, and then get back to your goal as soon as possible. You have to want it so bad that it burns in your gut, and does not leave you alone. Then, let nothing stand in your way.
If you are exhausted, or frustrated, and just want to hang it up for the day. Or if you want to table or scrap your project, do this first: Follow the one more time rule. My father told me this in a roundabout way, by suggesting once, “You don't want to play just one more game?”
Follow the one more rule: Do it one more time. Go over your project or proposal one more time. Practice one more swing. Everything happens one thing at a time. Be determined to go beyond – to do it just 'one more time.' You don't have millions and multitudes all at once in you. But you can do it just one more time. So do it. One. More. Time.
Take good care of yourself. You are all you ultimately have, all you were born with, all you will die with. Take care of your physical and emotional health, as though you were your own loved one. You are worth it. You are ultimately all you have in this world. Treat yourself kindly, with respect, and like royalty. You deserve it, and you are worth it.
Keep a tight grip on your finances, as much as possible. Finances have to come first. Face it, we all live in a capitalist, money-driven society these days. Money has to be managed, or it will manage you. You manage it, and keep control of your destiny.
Good relationships are a tonic for the soul, and a high motivator. Try and cultivate a few friendships, especially in your chosen field. Inviting a colleague out for dinner or coffee can pay rich dividends in morale and information both. And try to keep in mind, it is not really that difficult to be nice to people. And it is well worth the effort.
Make a master goal board, and set your goals a few years out. Then, break them down into smaller pieces. For example: Participate in a major golf tournament, time five years. Minor tourneys, in one year. Drive five buckets of balls, five days a week. Every month play at least ten 18-hole games. And so forth.
Re-assess and re-work your goals on occasion. Excellence recognizes that fate throws us ugly curves at times. As excellently-designed human beings, we can ADAPT and re-configure ourselves and our goals. Adapt, change direction if need be, and go on. Let nothing stop you, nothing defeat you on your journey to excellence in your field.
Routine and ritual can help keep you on track. Saturday is golf day. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are weight room day. Sunday is church, or cleaning day, or whatever. And every day, you can take a moment to think, what have I done to push myself towards excellence in my desired pursuit? A regular routine can simplify the process of getting from here to excellence.
Good luck in all your pursuits, and thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Earth to Robinson, do you copy?

From 1964 to the Present Time

     Here am I, sitting in the easy chair, turning on Netflix. My Smart TV pulls down thousands of IP packets, and paints me a trip back, down memory lane. It is around 1964, and the hot new movie out is called “Robinson Crusoe on Mars.” A human crew consisting of two astronauts, crammed into what looks like a large, yellow Gemini craft. Existing on tubes of food paste. They have made the long trip to Mars, on good spirits, cheerful to the last. A soft orchestral tune plays in the background. They realize a huge meteor is going to hit them. They fire retros to avoid it, but end up in a degraded orbit. Each has to land their personal capsule on the bleak Martian surface.

     It goes on from there, and in my opinion, it is kind of engaging, even now. Takes me back to a time when all we had were capsules, test chimps and high hopes. Of course, by 1964, we had concluded the Mercury program, so we had some experience in low Earth orbit. But the Moon still beckoned distant, and it would be five more years before we landed – Neil and Buzz stepping onto the powdery surface.

     Still, we had space fever then. You could see it in popular culture, and feel it in the air. We were flying test planes ever higher in the stratosphere, soaring in fact as well as in dreams. It is easy to understand the enthusiasm felt by, say, the Chinese and Indians now regarding space, when you look at how we were in those days.

     As I flash through memories to the present, it can be gratifying. Our successful Moon landings. The first station, Skylab. Then a long hiatus before the Shuttle flew. But when it did, what a sight that was. Our first real re-usable spaceship, that landed like a plane. It lofted many satellites and labs, and staged dramatic capture and repair of some platforms. Culminating, of course, in the construction of the International Space Station - a wonder unto itself.  Even though it took a long time to “turn it around” the sight of shuttles were always enjoyable, and gave one the feeling of a true “Spaceliner” .

     But they were also enormously expensive, and it came out later, some engines had to be entirely re-built between missions. Some of them were like totally re-built or 'new' spacecraft. Not as re-usable as we thought, and they cost a lot more. But still, we built them, we did it, and we learned. NASA was always trying to improve and uprate the engines, or it looked that way to me. I mourn the loss of the shuttles. Just hope our private industry companies can begin to match that engineering excellence shown by those NASA teams.

       Anyway, this rant is not about that. I just enjoyed the trip back in memory lane to those hope-filled, analog, toggle switch, metallic frame 1960's days. We would build our way to the Moon if we had to hammer every rivet in ourselves. And we did. Where did that spirit go?

      Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Maybe it is time for a Robinson Crusoe on Beta Centauri. Thanks for reading.


Saturday, April 05, 2014

A strange week

It has been one around here.  The Younkers fire - then the revelations of secret payments of hush money to former state employees.  We celebrated the fifth anniversary of legalizing Gay Marriage in Iowa.   Our supreme court made a completely impartial decision, and got thrown out for their efforts.  But, progress has been made.  Not to mention high winds, blizzards and other assorted crazy weather.  Winter would not let go.   But now it is Saturday, the sun is out, and it is supposed to reach the 50's F. this afternoon.   The horse show next door ought to do well today.  We shall see what the next week brings  :-)  

strange link

here it is:  

Friday, April 04, 2014

Dissapearing Act

The two policemen sat stoically across a natural wood table from their main suspect. Old-fashioned steel manacles kept his hands and feet safely contained. He had been searched repeatedly.

“Interview with suspect Randall Crane, March 5, 2029, 10:00 A.M. Begin Record,” said one of the cops, named Bernie Halpin. He leaned back, and stared at Randall. Randall, a wiry man with a mop of brown hair, looked dwarfed by the too-large jail duds he wore. He returned the stare.

The other cop, Gregg Mackintosh, continued to speak. “Well, Randy, care to tell us what happened?”

“I have nothing to hide, officer,” Randy said with a snicker. The two cops shifted uncomfortably.

“Just tell us what took place from your perspective,” said Det. Gregg.

“Easy. When your guy was chasing me, I did the only thing I could; sent a drain code to kill his phone.”

“You did more than that. How did you make his clothes dissolve.”

“Clothes? I didn't know anything about that. Just sent the codes so his phone would dissolve.”

Bernie growled. “Quit lying, dirtbag, and this will go easier for you.”

“What's the matter, didn't you want the world to see that banana tattoo?” said Randy, and chuckled.

“Let me hit him, just once – please?” said Bernie to Gregg. Gregg held him back with a hand, and said, “Please, let me handle this.”

“So somehow you dusted his clothes, or one of your friends did.”

“I guess someone must have,” said Randy. “I would have gotten away, if the partner hadn't been following so close. But it was not me.”

Gregg scowled; “Not you. But you know who? Tell us all and we can offer you a reduced sentence. Otherwise, you are looking at twenty-plus years of hard time.” Gregg and Bernie both stared at Randy.

“I'm sorry, officers, but the only thing worse than hard time is snitching out your friends. I will admit to draining your phone only. I did nothing else. That is all I have to say.”

“You piece of shit. Interview is over, take him away,” said Bernie. Gregg just nodded. A uniformed officer opened the door to the interview room and took Randy back to his cell.

The two sat a moment. Gregg softly asked, “Do you mind just going through it one more time for me, so it is clear in my head what happened.”

Bernie sighed, but relented. “Well, I was following him through the Citymall atrium, and he caught on somehow. He sped up, and so did I. I got my phone out to alert my partner. But the damned thing quit on me, and then it dissolved in my hand. Randy triggered the drain program somehow – on the run, no less.”

“Probably via his wrist cell. Go on.”

“You know the rest. I chased him out the door and down the block, before I noticed my shoes turning into sticky goo. So I shucked them, and tried to pursue barefoot. Then my goddamned clothes began to dissolve. I mean they shredded right off me. Do you know how humiliating that was?”

“I'm sorry for you, Bernie. And right in front of all the city cameras too.” Gregg managed to keep a straight face.

“The only thing I held onto was my badge and car keys. By then, the guy had run up the block and disappeared. My partner came up, and I told him where. Lucky for us there was another team watching. They caught the guy trying to get in to an old warehouse.”

“Yeah, his own people locked him out. How about that, and he won't even tell on them,” said Gregg.

“My partner gave me his jacket, at least. But before I got back to our vehicle, that was dissolving too. Some of the duster chemicals must have stuck to my skin. Luckily they didn't harm me. Yuck. I finally showered them off.”

“And when we got into the warehouse, the gang was gone. Not a trace. Weird,” said Gregg.

Bernie shrugged. “Well, what the heck. We got Randy there. That will put a dent into the theft ring. And he is in a metal-and-concrete cell. I'd like to see them try and dissolve that!”

Gregg was forming the thought to say, “don't underestimate these guys...” when the noise said it for him. Rumbling explosions, crashing masonry. The two men dived under the table to avoid the mayhem, but they were injured anyway.

With much masonry dissolved by conventional high explosives, the team of four heavily-armed criminals swarmed in and quickly rescued their leader. Before taking off, one of them sprinkled a little dust over the table where the two men were sprawled.

“See if they can follow us naked again,” he snickered.

The End    (c) 2014 Mike Wilson

(Researchers at Iowa State University recently discovered a process for manufacturing dissolvable electronics - reported on local news, and where the idea for this comes from).

Wednesday, April 02, 2014



The 21-year-old me might not be happy,
since that million-dollar mark was missed.
But he would have to admit, I kept busy,
traded years to cross things off the 'bucket list.'

Perhaps I could be nicer,
perhaps I could smile more;
Subject to frailties and errors,
Mistakes and missteps galore.

Years to my fifties bought a lot of memories --
Hopefully by my seventies I will feel ahead,
more good will come despite random vagaries,
mostly satisfied, unless, of course I am dead.

But the most important things are people,
those wonderful souls who walk by my side;
Patient companions friendly and conversable,
we share experience as down time's lanes we ride.

Time's passage need not be some horror,
with you by my side, the journey is a pleasure.

- end