Category Archives: Something I just learned

That is not right!

English is not my first language nor my second. I can speak it and read it, apparently write in it too. (The medium is the message.) It is the idioms that get me. After going to see a baseball game for my first time, I felt that my vocabulary was enriched. I was familiar with idioms like “came out of left field“, “step up to the plate”, and “right off the bat”, but never confident enough to use them in a sentence. Now I do.

“Dead Presidents” is a slang term for paper money. It is a misnomer!

Alexander ($10) Hamilton was not a president, but a secretary of the Treasury.

The Ah-Ha! moment came when I was listening to Public Enemy.

Press play and then start reading

I got a letter yesterday that informs me that I won a free session of a Salsa class at a dance studio. You’d probably say, “But Dubi, with all that Colombian in you, your heart probably beats in that Salsa rhythm! Why do you need classes?” To that I would answer, “I need classes because I can’t dance Salsa or anything.” A few weeks ago I went to a dance class in Grant Park. The class was part of SummerDance and the person who was giving the class raffled a session of classes. I entered the raffle and that is how I won the class.

I know the basic steps of Salsa but I don’t know how to synch them to music.

Right now I am reading about ways to synch the music with a visual — the desired end result of the process would be a QuickTime file that flashes the number of what the count should be like (1 and 2 and 3 and 4) for dancing. Something between karaoke and Dance Dance Revolution. I imagine it to be like a .kar file (karaoke) but with music that is not midi and numbers instead of lyrics. A .kar file is a midi file with text tags added to it all along. The text is displayed in synch with the notes, turning the computer into a primitive karaoke machine. Here is a site with examples of a .kar file you can download.

The game plan is to find a way to mark a sound file with the beat and turn those marks into visual cues. If I am successful, I’ll let you know how I did it.

The loneliness of a middle distance runner

On Sunday morning I went for an early morning bike ride and stumbled upon a race. It was a half marathon. The runners were going south on Michigan Ave. and turning left on Roosevelt. I stood there, and watched just past the table where the runners are given a cup of water. It was a way to do people watching at a fast pace. The sound of hundreds of the tossed cups hitting the pavement was eerie. It sounded like what I imagine would be the sound of a hail storm from the inside of house made out of bamboo.
greg costello
I stood at the wrong side of the sun but I still like the way this photo came out. I wanted to look at the photographs that the media took of the event to see their take. For some reason I thought that a half marathon was a big deal. It is not. The only relevant thing that came up in Google was a Canadian site about running.

An angry post – Irish Spring

In March 2006 I was in Ireland. I had a wonderful time and great company. Since it was during what is considered spring break, I can say that I experienced Irish spring. I had a different Irish Spring experience today. After taking a shower I put on Irish Spring speed stick deodorant. A few minutes later I started scratching myself and saw that all the places where the product touched my skin had turned red. A quick look at the back of the label revealed that it says, “If rash develops, discontinue use.” The label probably gets Colgate Palmolive off the hook, but I am still irritated (pun intended). I want to know why it happened.

Because I am biased, I looked at the label to see if it was made in China, but no, it was made in the U.S. A blog search revealed that I am not the only one commenting on this. The explanation on the FAQ on the brand’s website was very general and unhelpful. I called the 800 number on the back to find out but they don’t answer on Sundays.

If you are reading this and you work for Palmolive or were hired by them to monitor blogs, please comment or write to me and let the world know why the product causes a rash. Which of the ten ingredients listed is the culprit? Should I avoid “Irish Spring” altogether or just products that have PEG-90 Diisostearate or any other ingredient?

I added the caution to the wikipedia page of Irish Spring.

I have no problem with Colgate and I have a favorable opinion of Irish Spring since my high school sweetheart gave me a spray deodorant the day before I joined the Air Force. Also, doing some graphics work in the past for the Degree brand (which is the competitor) did not turn me against the brand.

I just want to know what is the cause and make sure it does not happen again.

This was long, I cannot finish with this angry tone, so let me say that today I went on a bike ride to Northerly Island and it was beautiful. All the prairie plants are tall and in bloom.

I will update this after I call the 800 number tomorrow.

I talked on the phone with Phonecia from Palmolive. Her assessment is that the high alcohol dosage in Irish Spring is the culprit. Palmolive will send me a coupon for a different product. I opted for the coupon rather than a check so I won’t pay the sales tax twice. There is no way for me to know what the alcohol level is in other products. The safe bet is to use what I used before.

I guess I am the sensitive type.

Great song

What a great song! I heard it for the first time yesterday while watching a trailer for a new movie by Wes Anderson. I thought it was a new (Oasis-like) indie rock band until I Googled the lyrics and found out it was The Kinks. I should have known it is an old song; they mention spaceships and that is so late 60s/early 70s. 40 years later and it still sounds fresh!

I got the mp3 from a music blog called

Entertainment or politics?

I was listening to the democratic primaries debate at a tailgate party for Bill Richardson. There was supposed to be a big screen too but it did not work, so everyone sat around and listened.

The usual questions and the usual answers. After so many debates the candidates had their lines memorized. Then, Obama was asked by the moderator if, as president, he would welcome Barry Bonds to the White House.

What? Is that a debate or The Tonight Show?

The only explanation I could find is that the question was asked because Obama admitted using drugs in the past. I did not hear the answer and it does not matter what Obama replied. I thought the question was out of place, or maybe it was very much in place. After all, the debate took place in a football stadium.

Miranda July

A few weeks ago someone handed me a promotional three-day pass to a gym. I finally used it yesterday morning and was listening to a podcast as I was running. Studio 360 is a program about arts and culture from New York City Public Radio and the podcast is a great way to learn new things while doing something else.

As I was running, I listened to the following story by Miranda July. Miranda July is the director of the movie Me and You and Everyone We Know.

This story is from a collection of short stories she wrote. Working out is no longer boring. I love Public Radio.

One sculpture, two places

When Chase Bank renovated the first floor of the downtown branch, a new sculpture was added to the lobby that I recognized right away. The sculpture threw me years back to my childhood in Jerusalem hanging out in the sculpture garden at the Israel Museum. This is a coincidence that I choose to read as a good sign. What is left is to be as jolly at the bank as I used to be at the museum.
The sculpture is called “The Great Warrior of Montauban” and it was made by Emile Antoine Bourdelle. The detail I remember most is the stretched palm. I took the picture below when I noticed the sculpture in Chicago (November 2006). The picture above was taken last Friday when I was at the garden with my nephews. I came to the conclusion that if I frequent an art museum often enough, it can feel as if I own the art.

UPDATE: A Flickr search yielded the whereabouts of two other copies in Washington DC and in Egerville, France.

US Open

Is there a reason to get into a fight you are sure you are not going to win? I competed in a Rubik’s Cube competition (the US Open) this weekend. I did not even make it to the second round. To qualify for it I had to solve it in under 24 seconds. My best time in the competition was 1:33. Besides solving a 3×3 cube, there were other events in the overall competition. My absolute favorite thing to watch was the team event.
Two people, one cube. One move and passing it to the partner. It looked like some kind of dance/performance art. They are either very good at reading each other’s minds or they follow a strict protocol — something like “we solve the blue side first”.

Being with all the cubeheads and talking methods and watching them was very educational. I never met someone to share my algorithms with. I learned ways to shave precious seconds off my time. I did my best ever times in the competition. One simple thing was just the in way I was holding the cube. Another thing was “lube the cube” — putting some oil in it. The average time for the winner was 14 seconds. A friend made a banner to cheer me on. She got there after I already finished competing. It is okay; it’s not like I was going to win.