Just in time to get you all ready and prepared for the Super Bowl XLIII, here is a little video on the "mystery of the yellow line".

The yellow line denoting the current 10-yard "target" is one of the most impressive things for me about football coverage on television. In fact, it gives viewers at home an interesting advantage over both the fans in the stadium and the referees. Even in situations where the distance needs to be measured exactly on the field, the people at home already know if it was or was not enough to make the 10 yards---so they can relax and enjoy the refs' effort to confirm it. In addition to these little moments of superiority, the sheer awesomeness of mashing up live video with a smooth overlay---while not painting over players' legs etc.---is some seerious geekness I find deeply fascinating.

Now of course, just to be fair, European television channels do similar things in the mean time. For example in soccer, they show the distance to the goal line for free kicks. Still, due to the different objective of American Football, the advantage is much more striking there than in the European sports I know.

Have a fun Super Bowl with your friends and---of course---root for the Steelers!

Read more…

[caption id="attachment_1931" align="alignright" width="240" caption="\"Pollution\", CC by-nc-sa licensed by Gilbert R. on flickr"]"Pollution", CC by-nc-sa licensed by Gilbert R. on flickr[/caption]Here's an "award" the city of Pittsburgh would probably prefer not to have "won". According to the 2008 American Lung Association’s State of the Air report, Pittsburgh is the number one U.S. city most polluted by short-term particle pollution.

  1. Pittsburgh, Pa.
  2. Los Angeles/Long Beach/Riverside, Calif.
  3. Fresno/Madera, Calif.
  4. Bakersfield, Calif.
  5. Birmingham, Ala.
  6. Logan, Utah
  7. Salt Lake City, Utah
  8. Sacramento, Calif.
  9. Detroit, Mich.
  10. Baltimore, Md./Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia.

The US Environmental Protection Agency's flyer "Particle Pollution and your Health" says about short-term pollution:

Short-term exposures to particles (hours or days) can aggravate lung disease, causing asthma attacks and acute bronchitis, and may also increase susceptibility to respiratory infections. In people with heart disease, short-term exposures have been linked to heart attacks and arrhythmias. Healthy children and adults have not been reported to suffer serious effects from short-term exposures, although they may experience temporary minor irritation when particle levels are elevated.

On the year-round pollution scale, the city ranks almost equally as bad: Trading spots with the "short term" number 2, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh was the second most polluted city in the country, year-round.

  1. Los Angeles/Long Beach/Riverside, Calif.
  2. Pittsburgh, Pa.
  3. Bakersfield, Calif.
  4. Birmingham, Ala.
  5. Visalia/Porterville, Calif.
  6. Atlanta, Ga.
  7. Cincinnati, Ohio
  8. Fresno/Madera, Calif.
  9. Hanford/Corcoran, Calif.
  10. Detroit, Mich.

Only in the third discipline, Ozone pollution, Pittsburgh doesn't rank among the top 10.

Link to the condensed lists, or look at the stateoftheair website for nice Google Maps overlays, and to find out how your city is doing.

(Thanks, Tara, for the link!) -- (Photo "Pollution", CC by-nc-sa licensed by Gilbert R. on flickr)

Read more…

2009 ist angebrochen und so ist es mal wieder Zeit für eines meiner Lieblingswörter der englischen Sprache.

Ich erinnere mich noch, als wäre es gestern gewesen, an eine Englischstunde in der achten oder neunten Klasse. Unsere unter den Schülern nur durchschnittlich beliebte Englischlehrerin hatte es sich zur Angewohnheit gemacht, unangekündigt Vokabeln abzufragen (und damit war sie, das sei am Rande erwähnt, gleichzeitig für meinen soliden englischen Wortschatz als auch für die einzigen Sechser verantwortlich, die ich in meiner Schulkarriere je bekommen habe).

Sie fragte also einen Klassenkameraden nach den jüngsten Vokabeln ab: "atmen?" -- er hatte, das war offensichtlich, sich die Wörter nicht angesehen und war lediglich um Schadensbegrenzung bemüht. So stammelte er... "to... to... to atem?". Die Lehrerin schmunzelte, und erkannte zwar seinen "guten Versuch" an, gab ihm aber trotzdem keine bessere Note.

Zu seinem Leidwesen war "to breathe" kein deutsches Lehnwort. Mit einem anderen Wort, über das ich gerade heute gestolpert bin, hätte er da schon mehr Glück gehabt:

to meld

... kommt, fast hättet ihr es geahnt, vom deutschen melden und bedeutet, eine Hand beim Kartenspiel erklären. Obwohl Stephen Fry in seinem letzten Podcast (Audio, Text) bemerkt, dass das Wort nunmehr vornehmlich im Sinne von "vermischen" (ein Mittelding zwischen "melt"=schmelzen und "weld"=schweißen) verwendet wird. Ein ziemlich interessantes Wort, scheint mir!

Zugegeben habe ich das noch niemanden in einer Unterhaltung sagen hören. Aber was nicht ist, kann ja noch werden.

Update: Ursprünglich hatte ich behauptet, "to meld" bedeute ganz generell "to announce", nicht nur beim Kartenspiel. Und überhaupt verschwieg ich, dass die Nebenbedeutung "verschmelzen" offenbar nun häufiger verwendet wird als seine Ursprungsbedeutung. Danke, Martin, für den Hinweis!

Read more…

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland
The Northeast
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

That was a fun little quiz -- and apparently, I acquired an "Inland North" accent (in addition to my German accent? wow). Needless to say, I have never been to Wisconsin, and my home town is well over 4000 miles/7000 kilometers away from Chicago. But, that is true, I do call carbonated soda drinks "pop" (quite incidentally the "correct" word to use both in Oregon and Western Pennsylvania)!

(via Asa)

Read more…

Dear Readers!

Merry Christmas from snowy Idaho! I haven't been posting anything lately as I am busy taking trips, eating good food, and similar things, and I hope you are equally unconcerned with the Internet these days :)

Here's a pic from our recent sledding in the Idahoan mountains. The snow here is awesome!


These are Tara's cousins. Of course, when I tried to gain a similar amount of air, I always crashed ;)

Read more…

CMU's newspaper "The Tartan" has an article about Carnegie Mellon University's tuition being the 11th highest in the nation:

Tuition is on the rise, according to a new College Board list citing Carnegie Mellon as having the 11th highest tuition in the U.S. (...) Tuition costs are not the only concern for prospective students. Ranked 11th as the college with the highest tuition, Carnegie Mellon is also ranked 11th by the College Board for the highest total cost. Factoring in room and board, the estimated total cost for the 2008–2009 year is $49,200 according to the College Board website.

That is even higher than the so-called "Ivy League" schools:

Interestingly, the Ivy League schools were not featured on either list in a ranking higher than Carnegie Mellon. Neither Harvard, Yale, Stanford, nor the University of Pennsylvania were listed in the top 25 highest tuition or total costs. Harvard placed as the 118th most expensive college in tuition and 108th in total cost.

Will these people be able to pay off their college loans before they retire?

Read more…

A "GOOD" poster illustrating the first 100 days of the presidency of every American president since Franklin D. Roosevelt. (It's CC by-nc-sa licensed, awesome).

I like what different ideals are expressed by the inauguration speeches, and all the details, such as the popular vote.

By the way, if you are fast enough, allegedly this can be bought at Starbucks up until today.

(via Jason Kottke)

Read more…

World leaders have hailed the election of Senator Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States.

... writes BBC News and expresses what I am sure at the very least most of Europe thinks: That Obama's election for president is not only good for the United States, but good for the world.

German politicians are also thrilled about the outcome of the US elections and both the Chancellor and the Minister of the Exterior are "looking forward" to working with Obama and his government. The German president reassured Obama in a letter that the US "can count on Germany as a dependable partner and long-time friend".

Still, the international expectations are high. Some of them are justified, others not. For example, the Europeans need to realize that Obama was not elected in order to solve the world's problems in a way that conforms with the ideals of the European Union. I expect him to pursue first and foremost the success of his own country, as is his legitimate job, of course. And while he is greatly popular in my country (some people call him the "next Kennedy", as a reference to the major popularity of JFK in Germany: Remember "ich bin ein Berliner"?), he'll not use his power to make the Germans' life easier. The financial crisis, for instance, may have been "brewed" in the USA originally, but Germany will have to carry its share of it like everybody else, and not even a president Obama will change that.

So I sure hope that the German disappointment is not too big once they land back on the hard asphalt called "reality". One of the first times this is bound to happen may be when Ms Merkel's phone rings and Obama asks her to send more German soldiers to Afghanistan. But, as Michael Zürn (a professor for international relations in Germany) says in an interview with tagesschau.de, maybe this is even helpful for the German discussions on what role we even want to play internationally, and what we are willing to invest.

This, however, leads to another problem: In September 2009, Germany is due to vote for a new parliament (and, consequently, a Chancellor). With so much focus on and excitement about the U.S. elections, it almost seemed like the Germans forgot their own reality: That we need change in our own country as well. That our government is busy selling out our constitutional rights instead of establishing trust. And that as of now, there's no "German Obama" in sight who is likely to glue the constitution together again.

("Obama campaign poster" picture CC by-nc-sa licensed by Anthony Baker on flickr; "Day one" comic by Mike Luckovich on comics.com)

Read more…

Nice: About a week ago, world-class trumpeter Wynton Marsalis was on the Colbert Report, and here's a video of it:

If you don't care about them talking, forward to 5:10ish and listen to Steve Colbert and Wynton Marsalis in a duet version of the US national anthem.

By the way, that's one fine horn Marsalis is playing there. It's made by Dave Monette from Portland, Oregon. Incidentally, I was there once and got to play Wynton's trumpet (the same kind only, obviously) and it's the heaviest trumpet I've ever played: It felt like a solid chunk of metal. Believe me, making that sound good takes some serious skills. Needless to say, Marsalis has them.

(via allaboutjazz.com)

Read more…

Wired.com has an interesting wiki article describing what you can do if you are an American and get turned away at the polling place because you are not on their list:

Federal law requires states to allow voters to cast a provisional ballot if a voter claims he registered before the state's registration deadline and is eligible to vote -- that is, that the voter is a U.S. citizen, 18 years or older and is not a convicted felon (in states that don't allow felons to vote). The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found that "countless" numbers of eligible voters were disenfranchised in the 2000 election because poll workers did not allow them to vote on provisional ballots. So it's important for voters to understand their rights and insist on them at the poll, experts say.


Read more…