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08/23/14 - The Latest in Vodka

We aren't big vodka fans. To be honest, we loathe the stuff, but we couldn't help noticing the latest and greatest on the shelves at our Safeway. From left to right it runs the gamut. First, there's the Vodka Diet. While losing a few pounds might be good for one's health, this is probably the least healthy way to go about losing them. Then, there's the Patriotic approach, most likely pandering to our concerns about Putin, Russia and the Ukraine. We aren't sure of the appeal. Is it drink vodka for Dutch courage or to forget about the whole mess. Finally, there is the diplomat's special, combining the best of both worlds: America's love of junk food and Russia's love of hard liquor.

As we said earlier, we just aren't big vodka fans.


Keywords: art, food


02/25/14 - The Chihuly Glass Museum

We finally visited the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum in Seattle Center. We've walked past it dozens of times, but this time we had an out of town visitor and wanted to do something Seattle. Dale Chihuly, artist, visionary and promoter, has created some pretty amazing glass sculpture with emphasis on the organic and fantastic. These are all large scale works, indoors and outdoors, and these photographs don't really do them justice. They are meant to be seen as an environment, not as artifacts.

Organic forms

The fantastic

A smaller artifact

Fantastic forms

Another amazing sculpture

Outdoors in the garden

Organic forms

More fantastic flora

Fantastic ferns

More of the garden

Life imitating art

Keywords: seattle, art


01/20/14 - Shadow of Godzilla

We had a bit of sun recently and saw this, an auspicious shadow on the wall. Was it Godzilla's birthday, marked by an astronomical alignment?

The Shadow of Godzilla

Keywords: art


11/08/13 - Seattle Band Signs

We always love the ragged, colorful look of those Seattle band posters that plaster various light poles and the like. They're a real part of Seattle. We aren't big music people, but we can appreciate their energy and their testamony to the vibrancy of the local music scene. Of course, they can look a bit messy and cluttered, so we're sure that one day the gentrifiers and improvers are going to do something about them. Until then, we're going to enjoy them.





Keywords: seattle, art


03/14/13 - Veronica Mars - Support the Movie at Kickstarter

We're big fans of Veronica Mars. A friend of ours sent us a DVD of the first season, and we let it sit on our bookshelf for years. Eventually, we noticed it sitting there and decided to, of all things, pop it into a DVD player and watch a few episodes. Well, one thing led to another. The series is long over, but there is a Veronica Mars movie in the works, where by "in the works" we mean desperately looking for funding since no major media player is interested. Since it is 2013, this means there is a Kickstarter project for a Veronica Mars movie, and it has raised of two million dollars already. If you are curious about the series, you can find out more here or here or here. If you want to find out more about the movie project and how you can help, click here.

That's Veronica (Kristen Bell)

Keywords: art


01/18/13 - Lissajou Figures

If you ever watched any science fiction movies from back in the 1950s or 1960s, before modern computer generated special effects, you almost certainly have seen a Lissajou figure, a strangely wobbly figure traced on an oscilloscope screen. They were one of the weirdest things you could make appear on an oscilloscope screen without a great deal of trouble. All you needed were two signal generators, and there you were, in science fiction land.

There are a number of Lissajou figure generators on the internet, but most of them require Java. Right now Java is having its own special effects crisis as a security risk, so it is time for a replacement. This generator uses HTML5, so it will run in most newer browsers, though it may not run in some older ones. Click this link and go play. There are two parameters, generally small integers, you can adjust, and you can drag your cursor across the phase shift rectangle to make the figure "rotate". It's a spacey effect. Sometimes it will appear to be rotating horizontally, but if you tilt your head you will see that it is rotating vertically as well. (Try 5, 4 for that.)


Click the image to generate your own Lissjou figures.

Keywords: science, art


12/31/12 - Two Out Of Four

This was a last minute Christmas present suggested by most recent flight back from Seattle. The climb out of Boeing Field takes one over an industrial area south of Seattle. It doesn't look like much by day, but there are all sorts of fascinating lights by night. One set was hypnotizing, a set of four columns lighted two at a time, moving about an invisible shape. A quick trip to the Radio Shack provided an Arduino processor and some red LEDs. JoAnn's fabrics and hobby supplies next door provided four plastic columns for supporting elaborate wedding cakes. Add in a glue gun, a soldering iron and some black foam board, and there was something new under the tree. Be sure to click and watch the dark video. It can be hypnotic.

Click the image to see the movie

The works in a drawer

Click the image to see the movie

Keywords: christmas, seattle, science, art


10/07/12 - Manga Seattle

We recently downloaded an application for our phone that turns ordinary photographs into manga-like drawings, complete with untranslated Japanese text for enhanced versimulitude. Where better to mangafy the imagery than the trendy Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle?

That's J. Crew and Barnes & Noble downtown. We went up Pine and down Pike.

The Paramount - looking good

A record shop

A boring looking building looking less boring - This reveals some of the power of mangafication.

Is that Spinassa?

An appliance repair shop on Pike


This must be a head shop

This could be Tokyo, or Des Moines.

A costume shop

The convention center

Keywords: art, seattle


09/03/12 - Store Brand Popcorn

We aren't sure who designs these boxes of store brand products, but someone must be having fun. We've already posted on the various cereal clones, but now the house brands are taking over the popcorn shelf with horrible puns. You'll notice the packages are shaped just like the major brands, but the labels are quite distinctive.

That container looks like Orville Redenbacher's, but the label says Corn to be Wild and Lieutenant Kernel.

We aren't sure of who does the artwork here, but it was probably done pretty late at night.

It's like something out of Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend.

Keywords: art, kale


07/06/12 - Store Brand Cereal Clones

We aren't big breakfast cereal eaters, but we do browse the aisles of our local supermarket, and we can't help but notice the cloned house brands of various popular cereals. Who designs these? Does each supermarket chain have a group of designers? Is there some cereal clone design house that does the cereal clone and the box art as part of a package deal? Do they advertise for artists on Craig's List?

The legal team lets them use the primary color and general theme, but no one can patent circular candies, or Lifesavers would own Kellogg's by now.

This isn't as precise as some clones, but that rabbit is at least as scary as the Lucky Charm leprechaun.

Once again, legal OK'ed the primary color and theme cloning. They must have had a great meeting discussing whether they'd get sued by the Beatles or the guys who make iPhones.

Keywords: art


06/18/12 - We Answer Questions - Operation Twist

Now and then we get questions from our friends and family, and we try to answer them. Here is our answer to two related questions: What are bonds? and What is Operation Twist?

1) Bonds are just loans. If someone, usually a company or government entity, wants to borrow money, they can write down promises to repay in the form of bonds which are legal documents, contracts, that state:

  • a) A certain sum must be paid on a certain future date
  • b) Certain sums of interest must be paid at certain intervals
  • c) The borrower may repay the loan early, but not before a certain date, the call date
  • d) This is a contract since a, b & c are because the borrower received a certain amount when the bond was issued.
A bond is a fungible instrument. It can be bought and sold. Typically, the borrower engages a bank or other financial firm to serve as the underwriter. The underwriter is responsible for rounding up the money to be lent. Underwriters usually have clients who are looking for investments, so they'll typically arrange to sell their clients a lot of the bonds before the issue date, the day the borrower gets the money and the lenders get their bonds. Even they can't sell enough bonds, the undewriter is still obligated to lend the full sum, so they try and sell as much of the loan as they can up front.

A lot of financial instruments use the same structure. If you buy a CD at your bank, you get a certificate of deposit which is basically a bond saying you'll get your money, your principal, back on a certain date, and you'll get interest at various intervals up until then. If you borrow money and sign a promissory note, you promise to repay and to pay interest. A mortgage is just a promissory note wrapped up with land and a house as collateral. A treasury note is just a bond issued by the federal government. Corporate bonds are just bonds issued by corporations.

You'll notice that most of finance is about money now and money later, so it's mainly about how money travels through time.

Also, there are a lot of names for the same thing. The distinctions are usually historical. On the sidewalk it might be an IOU; 20 floors up it's a bond; if there's real estate as collateral, it's a mortgage. (The real in real estate comes from the same root as royal, not realize.)

2) Operation Twist is based on the segmentation of the market for treasury notes and the fact that the US government cannot go broke.

Despite what the deficit scare mongerers say, the US government cannot go broke. It can always print more money. This means that federal debt is the safest game in town. (Look at what happened when one of the rating agencies cut the US credit rating; interest rates went down making it even easier to borrow.) Since interest rates are based on the level of risk of repayment, the treasury pays the lowest rates at every time scale. All other interest rates are based on these. A lender always has the choice to lend to the government or to some riskier party, but they expect higher interest payments as a premium for accepting the risk of losing their money.

The federal government borrows money at many different time scales, so one can buy government bonds with periods ranging from 30 days to 30 years. The short term notes, for a year or shorter, are mainly used for parking big lots of money safely. Large bank accounts are not FDIC insured, so if you have a million dollars you might need at any time, you'd constantly be buying and selling, 30 or 90 day notes. If you are a pension fund and are trying to meet your 2040 obligations, you might buy 20 or 30 year bonds. Most business lending is in the 10 year range so the interest rates on business loans are roughly tied to the 10 year government rate.

The goal of Operation Twist, also called quantitative easing, is to lower the 10 year government rate by manipulating the market for government bonds. The idea is that the Federal Reserve owns trillions of dollars of treasury bonds, more than anybody else, so they are big enough to influence rates across the board. Operation Twist has the Federal Reserve selling their 10 year bonds and buying 30 year bonds. This should lower the rates on 10 year notes and raise them on 30 year notes. Lower rates on 10 year treasury bonds should mean lower rates for loans across the board. Lower rates should stimulate the economy.

This would usually be the case, except that interest rates are already very low, and the economy has lots of other problems. If you account for inflation, federal interest rates are negative, meaning that the lender is paying the government to hold his or her money. It isn't clear they can go a lot lower or that this would have much effect. Also, businesses consider other factors when deciding whether to borrow money or not, for example, many of them are worried about their customers, and their customers are worried about their jobs and the size of their paychecks. It doesn't make sense to expand if no one is buying now.

Keywords: historical, art, science


05/02/12 - Like a Snout

When we put a roof over the front steps of Lake Crescent Cottage, one of the items in the statement of work explicitly stated that the result "should not look like a snout". Then, there are those times you do want something to look like a snout. For example, this Maximus Minimus pulled pork food truck on Pine Street. We didn't try any of their pulled pork, but we can imagine the statement of work given to the body shop.

It does look like a snout.

Keywords: seattle, art


03/09/12 - Volvelleteer Updates

We've done a few updates to our volvelle making program Volvelleteer. We've fixed a few bugs and cleaned up the interactions. It also works better with more modern Windows systems. Volvelles are those pairs of rotating cardboard disks, one with little windows in it that show a variety of information as you turn the back disk. Volvelleteer is a tool for making these given a table of text or numbers. If you are curious, check out Volvelleteer or check out our Kaleberg software page to see what other goodies we have lying around.

A volvelle in the making

Keywords: software, art, science, kale


10/25/11 - Beads of Rain

The bird netting on our strawberry boxes had collected great glistening beads of rain. Usually, bird netting is pretty ugly, but the autumn rains and morning light made it something special.



Keywords: port angeles, art


10/07/10 - Spruce Railroad Trail Paving Update

We attended the park's open forum on the paving of the Spruce Railroad Trail. It was a pretty diverse group attending, with bicyclists, hikers, equestrians, park people, county people, and many we couldn't place by sight. The park is doing an Environmental Assessment. Those words are capitalized because it has a precise legal meaning, but it comes down to figuring out how much asphalt to pour. Right now, the trail is dirt, mud in season. The country proposes eight feet of asphalt and another two to four feet of gravel right along the lake on the little ledge carved out when the railroad was built. That doesn't leave much room for anything else.

We looked and listened to the various proposals the park is considering. These range from no changes to pouring as much asphalt as the ledge will bear, presumably a fair bit since it was designed for a working railroad. We couldn't help thinking of an article in that classic National Lampoon parody of a Sunday newspaper, the Dacron, Ohio Republican Democrat, home of a major asphalt producer.


We love their plan for Quaint Town.

Keywords: spruce railroad, art


09/28/10 - Labor Saving Design

We were walking around Seattle and noticed an excellent piece of lazy design. Instead of designing their own facade, these clever architects just copied the one across the street. Nice work!

It'll look just like the building across the street.

Keywords: art, seattle


03/21/10 - Bicycle Art

Now that they've paved the Morse Creek to Port Angeles leg of the Olympic Discovery Trail, you might think that you'd see a lot fewer bicycles with bent wheels and damaged frames, but you'd be wrong. One of the local families, with one of the prettiest gardens, has put up an art installation that can be seen as either an ironic comment or perhaps a warning against tresspassers. We'll let you judge.



Keywords: morse creek, port angeles, art


02/21/10 - Sparkling Light at Lake Crescent

It has been sunny and calm lately, so we noticed an amazing light out on Lake Crescent. We were on the Spruce Railroad Trail, and the light reflected from the gentle ripples on the lake reflected onto the trees, sparklling and twinkling. Our camera only captured this so well.

Move your mouse over the image to see the subtle change, or click to watch the movie.

Keywords: lake crescent, spruce railroad, art, science


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