The Daily Bongo

April 2011

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge kiss

Friday, April 29, 2011 -- Morning

Kiss the Girl!
Yes, I got up at 5 a.m. to watch the Royal Wedding today. My hope was that I would get up at 3 a.m. to watch the starting festivities, but unfortunately, I just could not keep my eyes open! I was awake to see the parts that really mattered: Princes William and Harry going to Westminster Abbey, the arrival of the other royals, and the arrival of Kate. Earlier, Queen Elizabeth bestowed the Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn, and Baron Carrickfergus. So that means that Kate will now be known as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Earlier, Queen Elizabeth bestowed the Duke of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, and Baroness Carrickfergus. Kate's dress was gorgeous. The top and sleeves were lace with a nice jacket, caught in at the waist, and a smallish, but very nice train. Kate was beaming the entire time. The ceremony went off without a hitch, or at least it seemed near perfect to me. You can review the official wedding program for the details.
Catherine's wedding dress The weather was perfect without the heavy rains that were forecast. After the ceremony, the royal couple were taken by carriage to Buckingham Palace, where we all got what we were waiting for, the kiss on the balcony. It was funny because William and Kate kissed shortly after coming out on the balcony. Piers Morgan, commentator for CNN, said that they would only kiss once. Well, as the military planes were coming in for a fly-by, William and Kate snuck in another kiss. That was a smidge longer, and the crowd loved it. It was really an experience to remember. The couple have a private celebration in Buckingham Palace this afternoon. Then the couple will then have some down time before the party that Prince Harry, and Kate's sister, Pippa, have organized. No news yet on the honeymoon. All in all, it was a delightful experience. I would have loved to have been in London to celebrate. The London police are estimating that 1,000,000 people were on the mall in front of Buckingham Palace, with total estimates of maybe 2,000,000 in the parks surrounding the Palace.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 -- Evening

Royal Wedding
Around 1 and a half days until the Royal Wedding. Yep, I admit that I'm a huge fan of the British royalty, and I plan on being glued to the set all day on Friday, watching the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
You Can't Win If You Can't Score
The Pens were doomed to lose tonight's game because they were basically unable to score, especially on the power play. Tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning got the one goal, and then just let the Pens shoot the puck wide of the net with practically every shot. There were so many opportunities that were for naught. I know that I was asking myself if Matt Cooke would have made a difference, and how much he might have cost the team with his incredibly stupid dirty plays. The Lightning win with a final score of 1-0. They'll play the Washington Capitals in the next round. Good year for the Pens, especially without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. However, the power play was such a huge disappointment.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 -- Evening

Bones: The Finder
I just watched the latest Bones episode on the DVR tonight. I have to say that I was really confused and unimpressed. The episode was titled "The Finder" and was about some guy who could find anything. I was really confused because it made no sense to me why Bones and Booth went to this guy. The show seemed to one of those episodes that is trying to spin off another series. I'm imagining the Finder episode is a pilot for another show. All I know is that it was two huge thumbs down.
Dead by Midnight
I started to read the latest Carolyn Hart book, Dead by Midnight. I was 70 pages into the 282 page book, and I was realizing that I wasn't enjoying the story or the characters. In the 70 pages, nothing much had happened. One character was dead, but it wasn't really clear what was going on. Even worse was the fact that I found myself not caring and slightly irritated by the characters. Annie Darling's mother-in-law was selling cat pictures with sayings. In every other paragraph, Hart would describe another cat, and giving a lame, puerile saying. It was starting to make me barf, and resulted in me closing the book at page 70. The book will be returned to the library tomorrow. I would recommend passing the book up unless you want to drench yourself in pointless treacle.

Monday, April 25, 2011 -- Evening

Pens in Downward Spiral
The Pens are in a definite downward spiral. This evening's game started out well, with Pascal Dupuis getting the first goal. But things when downhill from there. The Tampa Bay Lightning came right back to score, and they quickly took the lead. It looked like Chris Conner was going to tie things up with a penalty shot, but instead, he lost the puck on the way to the net. The Lightning won with a final score of 4-2. The series ends in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. I'm not holding out much hope for the Pens to move on to the next round.

Sunday, April 24, 2011 -- Afternoon

Is the Doctor Dead? Who is River Song?
Last night, the first episode of the new season of Doctor Who aired in the US. Just as with the Christmas special, we got to see it the "same day" as the Brits. However, with the time difference, it was really a few hours later. What did I think of it? Well, I have to admit that I was quite surprised to see the Doctor killed off in the first 10 minutes of the show. Stephen Moffat said a major character would die, but who would believe it was the Doctor. But hold on. That was a doctor who was much older. He arranged for Amy, Rory, and River Song to be there to watch him die. Then as they were mourning, who do they run into, but a younger version of the Doctor (still Matt Smith, of course). They proceed to go back to 1969 to figure out what, or who, the Impossible Astronaut is. Amy and River plot to somehow save the future Doctor. The bad alien appears to be a group of beings that look like Edvard Munch's The Scream only in black suits and ties. I'm not sure how I felt about the episode. I do know that I really wonder who River Song is. What role does she play with the Doctor? She maintains a diary, just as he does, which makes me wonder if she is the later, female version of the Doctor. I don't know if we will get the answers soon, but I do know that I will be watching next week to see what happens.
Kathy Reichs Channels Dan Brown
cover of Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs All righty! This time, Cross Bones, book number eight in the Temperance Brennan oeuvre is nothing like the other books. This book was right up my alley, though. Tempe and Andrew Ryan, who shockingly are a pair AND getting along quite well, thank you, are searching for the killer of Avram Ferris, Orthodox Jew, who deals in antiquities. The mystery starts when one of the observers at the autopsy, slips a picture of a complete human skeleton from Yigael Yadin's Masada dig. Whose bones are they? Tempe calls in Jake Drum, biblical archaelogist, to help her decipher the clues. He thinks that it might be Jesus. As Tempe finds the bones in a monastery, and then journeys with to Israel, we all start to wonder who is Masada Max (Ryan's name for the skeleton). More bones in a shroud are found, more die, others are threatened, Tempe goes off without calling Ryan. Tempe's life is slightly threatened, in no way to the degree as in the other books, and the whole feel is much lighter and happier. No, we never do find out who Masada Max is and the bones in the shroud are burned to bits in the thrilling action packed chase at the end of the book. All in all, it was quite a thrilling book, and very derivative of Dan Brown's DaVinci Code, which was out at that time. Reichs even mentions the book in her story. This was the best book of the series, in my opinion, and I hope that Reichs continues in this vein, but I don't think she does. I would highly recommend this book to any reader. I don't know if I would recommend that someone read this without reading the other books. I think if Cross Bones was the first book read in the series, the rest of the books would wane in comparison. So be forewarned, but please do read this one!

Saturday, April 23, 2011 -- Late Afternoon

Bad Day for Hockey
Today was a bad day for the Pens to play hockey. The bad day started in the last three minutes of the first period when the Lightning got two goal in less than two minutes. Then in the first seven minutes of the second period, they got three more to take a 5-0 lead. Marc-Andre Flery was pulled after goal number four, and Brent Johnson was put in his place. The bleeding continued with the Lightning get a total of 8 points in the game. Fortunately, the Pens foiled Dwayne Roloson's shutout with Mike Rupp and Chris Conner both getting goals. The final score: Lightning 8 - Pens 2. The series goes back to Tampa Bay on Monday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 -- Evening

Dinosaur in front of the Carnegie Museum
Dino Fungus
The folks at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History routinely dress up the dinosaur that sits in front of the Museum. Well, I guess for spring, the museum workers decided to dress the dino with plants. What did they do? They randomly stuck ferns all over the place. It looks really weird, sort of like the poor dino is coming down with a bad case of paleolithic fungus. Also, the basket of foliage handing from his mouth makes poor dino look quite doggish.
Pens Win!
Tyler Kennedy and Aaron Asham scored in the first and second periods of tonight's Pens and Tampa Bay Lightning game. The Pens really seemed to have momentum on their side when the Lightning started to change things around to their side. Little Martin St. Louis started the scoring, and then Sean Bergenheim tied things in the latter part of the third period. In the last minute of the third period, Eric Brewer launched himself, leaving his feet, at Max Talbot's head. Talbot was near the boards, and Talbot's head cracked off the glass and then off the ice. Fortunately, Talbot was able to get off the ice on his own power and head to the locker room. Unfortunately, no penalty was called on Brewer, because basically, the NHL is okay with head shots and concussions. The attitude of the league on head shots is just disgusting. Regulation ended in a tie, and the game went into sudden death overtime. Talbot made it back for the fourth period. The first overtime was scoreless. But 3:38 into the second overtime, James Neal finally earned his keep by scoring the winning goal. The Pens win 3-2 and go up 3-1 in the series. The series comes back to Pittsburgh on Saturday with a noon time game.

Elisabeth Sladen, Doctor Who's Sarah Jane Smith

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - Evening

Sarah Jane Dies
Very sad news in the Doctor Who world. Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith, died today at the age of 63. It seems she had been sick for a while from cancer. Sarah Jane was the companion for Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker's Doctor. In recent years, she rejoined the Doctor Who world. She made guest appearances on the new Doctor Who series and had her own series, The Sarah Jane Adventures. I have really enjoyed watching The Sarah Jane Adventures, even though the show was obviously made for kids. Well, if you think about it, Doctor Who was made for kids. The world will be a much sadder place knowing that Sarah Jane is no longer with us.

Monday, April 18, 2011 -- Evening

Erev Passover
Tonight is the start of Passover. I got my matzah and kosher for Passover cake mixes. it's much cheaper to get the cake mixes from the grocery store than to buy the over priced bakery items. It's amazing how much only a few cookies or a small cake can cost. This year, they had carrot cake so I snapped up a few boxes of that. Unfortunately, the local Giant Eagle and Kosher Mart do not have Passover bisseli. I'll just have to make do with fruit, matzah, and the cakes.
Monday Mourning
cover of Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs My journey through Kathy Reichs' oeuvre continues. I just finished Monday Mourning this evening. As I've already stated, the books are extremely formulaic. I can see where it might be difficult to know if you already read one of the books because they are so extremely similar that it's hard to distinguish them. I know that when it got to the end of the book, and Tempe was doing her usual stupid trick of trudging into a dangerous situation without calling the cops, I was yelling at the book in exasperation. You would think that Tempe would have figured out that she's unable to judge the situation. You would think that Tempe would learn from numerous past mistakes. But then, you would be thinking wrong. The story this time revolved around girls that were held hostage and tortured for years as sexual slaves. Tempe stumbles onto the case when she is called in to help identify bones found in the basement crawl space of a pizza parlor. The gruesome details in the last 100 pages of the book were sickening. This was one story where I could have used less descriptions of the horror. Also, the relationship between Tempe and Andrew Ryan is still not clarified throughout most of the book. Tempe doesn't know if she can trust Ryan. Do the two of them ever talk about their inner thoughts and emotions? Nope. That would make the situation so much easier. Instead, neither of them talks to the other, and they stumble around mistrusting each other and not communicating. The girl that Tempe thinks is Ryan's new lover turns out to his illegitimate daughter. Things seem to end with an offer from Ryan for the two to live together. Will it happen? Probably not. You are probably thinking that I'm ready to toss the series aside, and never read another page. Again, you would be wrong. I'm starting Cross Bones right now. This one takes the action to Israel, and I can't wait to see how Tempe gets herself almost killed.
Pens Win
The Pens were in Tampa Bay to play game three of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal against the Lightning. The Pens scored first, 5:46 into the first period with a goal by Max Talbot, followed 45 seconds later by a goal from Aaron Asham. Even though the Lightning got two goals from Martin St. Louis, the Pens managed to hold on by getting a goal from Tyler Kennedy to take a 2-1 lead in the series. Final score: Pens 3 - Lightning 2. The series continues on Wednesday.

Friday, April 15, 2011 -- Evening

CMU Carnival Bit of a Dud
The CMU Carnival this year was a bit of a dud. As I walked around the campus at lunchtime, I noticed that there was next to no one watching the Mobot races. Granted, most of the Mobots barely make it through two gates, but in the past, there were be crowds so thick, you couldn't see the sidewalk that the mobots raced on. Even the bug races had only a few strangling observers. I went in search of the robotics demonstration. It was extremely difficult to find; we had to ask people for directions. When we finally got there, we heard about one of the projects, the unmanned vehicle that can work in orchards, cutting grass, spraying weeds, and analyzing and reporting on the quality and number of apples. it was very interesting.
Pens Lose
The Tampa Bay Lightning tied things up this evening against the Pens. In fact, the Lightning delivered a royal ass whopping to the Pens. The Lightning scored three unanswered points in the first period. When Craig Adams finally scored for the Pens in the second, it seemed that the Pens might have found their mojo. Things were bound to change, but they didn't. Little Martin St. Louis scored. The final score was Lightning 5 - Pens 1. The next game will be Monday night in Tampa Bay.

Opening Face off for game 1 of the Pens' Eastern quarterfinal series against the Tampa Bay LIghtning

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 -- Evening

Playoffs Start
The playoffs started this evening, and the Pens hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first game of their Eastern quarter final series. The first two periods were scoreless. There were some exciting moments, but mostly Marc-Andre Fleury and Dwayne Roloson kept the puck out of their respective nets. Finally, 6:05 minutes into the third, Alexi Kovalev scored for the Pens. The arena went wild, and then went even wilder when 18 seconds later, Aaron Asham scored another one for the Pens. With 1:40 left in the game, the Lightning pulled Roloson from the net. 41 seconds were left in the game when Chris Kunitz put the puck in the empty net to seal the deal. Fleury was a man with a mission, and he stood on his head to shutout the Lightning. The Pens take game one with a final score of 3-0. Fleury got the number one star in the game for his fifth career playoff shutout.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 -- Evening

CMU Carnival
Carnegie Mellon University will be hosting Spring Carnival on Thursday. Carnival is a fun time. The students have Thursday and Friday off and are encouraged to attend the festivities. There is music, theater performances, mobot races, and robotics demonstrations. There's also a carnival set up in one of the school parking lots, with booths put together by students. I know that I cannot wait for the mobot races on Friday at noon or the robotics demonstrations. Now, let's just hope that the weather cooperates.

Monday, April 11 2011 -- Afternoon

The Upside of Irrationality
cover of The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely I just finished the second book by Dan Ariely that examines irrationality, The Upside of Irrationality. I am so glad that I found Mr. Ariely's material because it has gotten me to think about some of the decisions that I make in life. This particular book covers more of the personal, daily interactios that have an irrational side. For example, employers feel that giving employees more money will make them more likely to perform quality work. However, there is a limit to bonuses. Bonuses of a lower amount can inspire the employee to work harder. When bonuses become too large, the stress of knowing you must perform well to get the bonus tends to make people fail at any work that requires intellectual or creative effort. Physical work, however, can still be done for higher bonuses. Ariely also looks at whether there is such a thing as clutch, and in more cases, there isn't. Basketball players who are identfied as clutch shoot at the same percentage of success. They just tend to take more shots at the end of the game when it counts. They don't make more of those shots though. Online dating sites, procrastination, and adaptation are also evaluated.

One of my favorite pieces was an examination of the IKEA effect. When people find their work devalued by their employer, they lose all interest in performing for the employer. I know that experience first hand. I've written documentation at work that fell into a black hole. It wasn't used and seemed to be all for naught because it was basically thrown away. Ariely refers to it as contrafreeloading. In research studies, scientists have found that animals will not go for freely accessible food if they also have a mechanism to work for food. It might be because of the intellectual challenge of getting your own food. It's extremely boring to just get your food for free. The only animal that would take free food is the cat. Cats are very rational creatures. The rest of us look for the irrational creative challenge. It was a huge relief to find that although I'm irrational in wanting to have intellectually challenging work, I'm not alone. It's not fun to sit at work with nothing to do, and know that the few things you do will just fall into a black hole.

One of my favorite stories from the book comes at the end when Ariely talks about the damage done to his right arm in the explosion that injured him in his teens. The doctors wanted to amputate his arm, but Ariely refused. As he said, he didn't know if he could imagine using an artificial arm. As Ariely admits now, 20 years later, when his arm is barely usable and constantly painful, his discussion was irrational. He overvalued his arm and suffered from loss aversion. He wanted to maintain what he had; he didn't want to lose his arm. The decision to amputate his arm was irreversible. All these things lead him to make what 20 years later seems irrational and a poor choice. It was a very touching story.

Ariely is an extremely entertaining researcher and writer. He knows how to weave his own personal stories into the mix. I would highly recommend both of Ariely's books, The Upside of Irrationality and Predictably Irrational. It can be a life changing experience. You will start to think of why you are making those decisions in your life, and maybe, just maybe, you will start to act more rationally.

Sunday, April 10, 2011 -- Evening

Summery Day in the 'Burgh
Today was a truly gorgeous day in Pittsburgh. The temperature was close to 80, and there were only a few white clouds in the air. I spent a good portion of the day out and about, enjoying the weather while it lasts. And in Pittsburgh, it won't last for long. Tomorrow, heavy thunderstorms are predicted, and after tomorrow, the temperatures will be at least 20 degrees cooler. But today was a gorgeous day, and I truly enjoyed every second of it!
Pens Win Final Game of the Regular Season
The Pens played their final game of the regular season against the Atlanta Thrashers. The game went the Pens way, with they pulling ahead by three points by the end of the second period. Things were getting a bit rough on the ice with the Thrashers take out some of their frustration on the Pens. But it really didn't matter in the end. The Pens won with a final score of 5-2, and will be meeting up with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.

Friday, April 8, 2011 -- Evening

Home Ice Advantage
The Pens secured home ice advantage for the playoffs, and they moved up into the number two spot in the Eastern Conference. The Pens and the Flyers still have one more game. If the Pens win against the Atlanta Thrashers on Sunday, they will have the number two spot in the conference. The Pens were in New York to play the Islanders. There was some concern that this game might have more rough-housing. Even though there were some high-sticks, things were fairly calm. The Pens had a 3-2 lead in the third period when the Islanders scored in the last 35 seconds of regulation. The game went into overtime and then a shootout. Chris Kunitz was the only one to get the puck past a goalie in the shootout to give the Pens a 4-3 win.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 -- Evening

Shirts Off Their Back
Tonight was the Pens last regular season home game. It seems like the season just started, and already, it's almost over. The Pens played the New Jersey Devils. Jordan Staal scored first for the Pens, but the Devils scored one back. Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz scored to give he Pens a 3-2 lead. Then Dupuis scored a short handed goal in the end of the third to give the Pens a clear 4-2 win.

Tuesday, April 5 2011 -- Afternoon

Bare Bones
cover of Bare Bones by Kathy Reichs Yes, I have still been reading through Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan books. This time, it was number five in the series, Bare Bones. This book was more of the same. I would say that Reichs clearly has a plot template. She plops in the location, characters, family members under threat, pets, and scenario, and off she goes. Even though the books are extremely formulaic, I have been enjoying them. In fact, I find myself getting caught up in the story and flying through the pages. Reichs obviously does something right to maintain my interest and reading enthusiasm. I can understand the criticism from other readers though. In Bare Bones, Reichs and her daughter, Katy, are under threat of the Grim Reaper. There are several disparities that somehow wind up getting wrapped into one neat little ball: bear bones, a baby burned in a wood stove, drug dealing, animal dealing (exotic and for medicinal purposes), stray bones, and missing park rangers. Of course, Tempe winds up in danger, beaten up by the bad guy and threatened with death, before she is rescued by the cops. You would think that Tempe would learn that she should not just go running off to do the cops job, but then I guess we wouldn't have Tempe in danger. Andrew Ryan and Tempe finally get down to action when they attempt a vacation together (interrupted by found bones and a private plane crash). Ryan and Tempe wind up taking the plunge into a sexual relationship. But knowing Reichs, Tempe won't have an easy personal life. Things will get screwed up, and Ryan and Tempe will be separated yet again. I will be reading book number six, Monday Mourning as soon as I finish The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely.
UConn Wins
For the past two years, I have been great at picking the winners in the Men's NCAA Tournament Bracket Challenge. This year, for the second year in a row, I managed to pick the winning team. Last night, the University of Connecticut team beat Butler: 53-41. This was the second year in a row that Butler made it to the final match and did not win. I have to admit that after I picked UConn, I was disheartened to hear so many of the sports reporters saying that UConn didn't have a chance. Since UConn won the Big East Championship, folks were saying that the team would have to be tired. They played a lot of matches, and that's usually a death knell to the hopes for an NCAA Championship. I was nervous after the first half when Butler had the lead. However, Kemba Walker and the Huskies managed to pull it through in the second half.

Monday, April 4 2011 -- Afternoon

Karel the Robot
Stanford's Karel the Robot I mentioned last month that I would teach myself Java. Usually when I say things like that, I have the best intentions, but then I let things slide. Well, I put my foot down this time. I haven't had much to do at work, and in between work assignments, I have been browsing the web. As you can imagine, that's entertaining for the first few days, or maybe even weeks, but as days and weeks turn into months, you feel that you are slowly having every brain cell sucked from your being. I've taken programming classes in the past, and I've passed them. Usually, I'm really good at getting the syntax down, but then get lost in the logic. At Stanford University, the School of Engineering has made their courses available through the web and iTunes University. I've started to listen to the lectures for CS106A: Introduction to Computer Science/Programming Methodology. The instructor is Mehran Sahami, a really cool guy who knows how to get people to think the right way when it comes to programming. He starts the course with Karel the Robot. I bought a used copy of Karel the Robot: a Gentle Introduction to the Art of Programming from Amazon. So far, I have listened to the first three lectures, and completed two of the four parts in the first assignment. I must admit that I'm having fun, and I'm looking forward to getting over my irrational fear of programming. Sahami says the class is for anyone, even those with no programming experience. As he said, if you know programming, you may already have picked up bad habits, so the novice is really the best pupil. All I know is that I really like Sahami's teaching style.

Saturday, April 2, 2011 -- Evening

Pens in Florida
The Pens continued their Florida road trip, playing the Panthers. Tyler Kennedy scored first for the Pens, but then the Panthers scored two goals in the first period. Pascal Dupuis stepped it up tie the game. Fortunately, the Pens got some goals from Zbynek Michalek and Craig Adams to win the game with a score of 4-2. Only a few more games are left in the regular season before the playoffs start.