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Chris Irwin
Lives in Cleveland, OH
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My first photosphere. I wonder if one can get better at these. This is the Galaxy S5 plugin. 
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Nice photo,  Keep it up.
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I'd like to offer up some perspective on the Ukrainian Crisis.  I've been studying Russian history, my wife is Ukrainian, and my in-laws are living very close to a lot of the unrest that is happening now.  My understanding probably only scratches the surface of the complexities here.  But I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about the recent events in Ukraine.  

Ukraine has a long history of being conquered by surrounding nations.  The word Ukraine is actually derived from a Russian word that means borderland.  The past ~20 years, after breaking away from the Soviet nation and declaring its independence, has been the longest period of Ukrainian autonomy to date.  The last attempt at independence was at the end of World War I, during the Russian Civil War.  Ukraine declared itself independent after being conquered by the Germans, and liberated by the Russians.  But later it was absorbed into the Soviet Union, which ended its bid for independence.  Since the USSR fell, Ukraine has had difficulty forming a national identity.   It is heavily economically dependent on Russia, but the Ukrainian elections have swung policies back and forth, away from and toward Russia, causing economic problems.  This has had the effect more than once in the past 10 years of inciting revolutionary activities from the Russian interested east and south and from the European leaning west.  

Putin is obviously not being truthful about his actions or the reasons for them.  He initially denied any military action in Crimea.  He later claimed he was only protecting Russian interests when he took over the Crimean military bases. The speech after the annexation showed that he felt Russia had a right to claim the territory.  He later admitted that the Russian military was behind the whole story from the beginning.  What is he really up to?

My theory for the reasons behind all of the recent Russian military activity are as follows.  

First, historically, Russian rulers have been remembered by how they contributed to the growing empire, or despised by how they lost territory and/or power.   And Putin isn't getting any younger.  So he is thinking about his legacy.   

Second, Russia's source of power lately has been its riches in natural resources.  The centrally owned and operated natural gas monopoly Gazprom has proven to be a valuable commodity and weapon.

Lastly, both Crimea and the Donets Basin are resource rich regions.   The sea surrounding Crimea is a natural gas gold mine, and the Donets Basin has always been a valuable coal mining community.  

A result of the last Ukrainian revolution (when Yanukovich was forced out of office early this year) was Russia realizing the opportunity was ripe for gaining (back) some valuable territory.  The interim government is weak.  So it makes perfect sense to take advantage of this situation. Nevermind that this is all completely illegal.  So was the transition of power after the Euromaidan revolution.  

Many people in the Donets Basin are fine with becoming independent or joining Russia, just like Crimea was.  Others want to remain Ukrainian, but they are a minority.   I get the sense that the feelings aren't too strong either way, (except from the protestors themselves) because the people understand that their lives won't change too much for the better or worse no matter which side of the border they end up on.

The recent call by Russian and Ukrainian authorities for the protestors to disarm themselves leads me to optimism.  However, Putin is not taking military action off the table.  He still is waiting for an excuse to "liberate" the area from the west.  

I have to commend the Ukrainians for the relative calm that persists among the people not participating in the revolution and the protests.  Waiting for people to calm down is a much better reaction that fighting against them.  People are controlling crowds of protestors in Kiev by telling them that chaos is exactly what Putin wants, and they calm down.  The unrest exists only as small pockets, while the rest of the country tries to get on with life as best they can.  
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I created a Google+ page for my new YouTube Channel.  
A Chess Channel devoted to learning and having fun
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Chris Irwin changed his profile photo.

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I made a new self portrait today.  

I drew it out on paper, then set up the shot, knowing I wanted to light up my face with a flash reflected from the music stand. The flash is resting on the keyboard behind the music stand, facing a music book opened to serve as a reflector. The angle and light fall-off meant that the right side of the keyboard (photo left) was darker than I wanted. So I set up a second light on a light stand above and behind me to light the keyboard separately. Then I saw it might be cool to zoom the second flash out and use it as a side/hair light also.  

All of this wireless trigger and flash goodness was made possible by the Yongnuo flash system, which is probably 5x cheaper than using pocket wizards and Nikon/Canon flashes. One trigger on the camera with a PC sync cable to take the photo. Another trigger in my hand. And the receivers built-in to the flashes work quite reliably. 

Incidentally, the chord I'm playing with my right hand is a G7#5, which is one of my favorite dominants in the key of C (C for Chris?). My left hand is actually taking the picture, otherwise it would probably be playing a G or Db in the bass. 
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This should have been a snap with auto-awesome, but of course I had to do this myself in photoshop.  In the end photoshop probably did a better job because I also stabilized them.
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Such a great investigation. More journalists should do what you do, Simon.
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Мир всем во Христе!
Да поможет Бог и Господь обрести людям истину, кто есть кто!!!
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I switched to Android from iOS last night.  Here's why.

I've been using my iPhone like it was a Google device (gmail, google calendar, google contacts, googe+) for years.  iCloud hasn't been impressive.  None of the default iOS apps are of any interest to me.  The app store has almost nothing interesting that isn't already ported to Android.  So from a software perspective, Apple had very little to offer exclusively that interested me.  I was mostly in it for the hardware.  

But the hardware scene has changed dramatically in the past 2 years. Android devices suddenly have better screens and are just as snappy as the iPhone.  The last two iPhones (5S and 6) that were unveiled since I got my 5 have been a disappointment.  The 6 was a nice size increase, but added virtually nothing that Android hasn't had for quite a while.  And it's still more expensive than the best Android phones.  

So after being disappointed with Apple's announcement event yesterday, I went and got a Galaxy S5 last night.  
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Way to go, Chris! You playing piano somewhere 'r another? I hope!
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This list marks the top 10 roller coasters in the nation, and I have to agree with the #1 pick.   

I decided to make a day of riding as many roller coasters in one day as I could at Cedar Point.  It was my first time there, and I wanted to ride all of them, but we didn't get to the park until noon, and 10 hours just isn't enough time to ride them all.  At least not in the order I picked.  I had to walk quite a bit to get to the next one.  

I rode them chronologically, starting with Blue Streak in the 60s and ended up in the middle of the 00s.  I skipped the junior coasters, and rode a few of them more than once, as requested by my fellow riders that day.  I went with my wife and her mother, and they weren't interested in the most extreme coasters.  

A quick review of each coaster:

Blue Streak (1964).  For being 50 years old, wow, what a ride.  I did not expect it to be that much of a thrill.  It isn't very tall, or even that fast, but the age and "shaking" that wooden coasters provide make it seem much scarier than it is on paper.  This was my mother-in-law's first roller coaster ever, and she began to have second thoughts on trying a second.  

Cedar Creek Mine Ride (1969).  A steel coaster that looks like a wooden one.  This has some nice corkscrews, but nothing that really stands out aside from the beautiful view of the lagoon it sits over.  However, as it is pretty mild, it was my mother-in-law's favorite, and she ended up riding it three times.

Corkscrew (1974).  This was a fun ride that really was too short.  I enjoyed the few inversions, but nothing really stood out to make this seem awesome.  This was my wife's first roller coaster that went upside down.

Gemeni (1978).  A racing wooden roller coaster that was memorable in how people stretched across the track to touch the other car's passengers.  That was probably against the rules, but the cars did seem to race, and the leader changed a couple of times.  

Iron Dragon (1987).  I really enjoyed the unique feeling of swinging side to side under the rail.  This was another mild ride that all three of could enjoy.   

Magnum (1989).  This coaster is credited with starting the roller coaster wars.  It was the first to reach 200 feet, and was really a great ride.  The tunnels were a great way to surprise the rider even as the train lost speed.  It was my second favorite experience of the day.  

Mean Streak (1991).  This was a disappointment really, considering it is located on the most beautiful area in the park to put a roller coaster, with amazing views of Lake Erie.  Just a normal wooden coaster. 

Raptor (1994).  This was a fun ride for sure.  I guess the 90s brought with it a rush of these "alternative" roller coasters where you aren't just sitting in a box on top of a track.  This ride was under the track, with feet dangling below.  It really felt like flying!  The ride did some cool tricks that felt like barrel rolls and other flying maneuvers.   

Mantis (1996).  A standing roller coaster.  Another disappointment.  It was an interesting climb and drop, but after that you hit your head against the harness, and are afraid to do so again the whole ride.  Squashing your ears against your head shouldn’t be a part of anything you do for fun.

Millennium Force (2000).  My last ride of the evening, and I’m so glad I did it last.  This coaster had everything except an inversion, and probably is better off without the inversion.  It has a great initial drop (300 ft tall and fast), more than one weightless hill, tunnels, and really good pace along the whole ride.  It basically seems like the same formula as Magnum, stepped up several notches.  

Wicked Twister (2002).  I skipped ahead and rode this ride earlier in the day.  This was interesting because it was magnet propelled, which makes for a thrilling beginning.  And the U-Shaped nature of it made it interesting too.  The view of the beach is really fun going up.  I rode it twice, once in the front, and again in the back.  The back was much scarier, as you are much higher up when facing down towards the ground.  

The ones I missed were Top Thrill Dragster (2003), Maverick (2007), and GateKeeper (2013).  Next time!
We rated nearly 500 roller coasters in the U.S., combining fan votes, awards, and technical specifications like max height, max speed, track length, G-forces, vertical angles, and inversions.
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I decided to check the myth that the word stewardesses is the longest word you can type with only the left hand.  This word has 12 letters and, yes, it is impressively long.   

However, A short python script using an English word dictionary from the publisher of Letterpress came up with two words that beat it.  _sweaterdresses_ (14) and detractresses (13) are both longer.  

Also equally as long as stewardesses are 19 other words: abracadabras, aftereffects, aftergrasses, decerebrated, decerebrates, desegregated, desegregates, extravagated, extravagates, extravasated, extravasates, reaggregated, reaggregates, resegregated, resegregates, reverberated, reverberates,, sweaterdress, and watercresses.  

As long as I'm checking the left hand, I might as well check the right too.  And as expected, since the right hand has fewer and less popular letters than the left, its top list is less impressive: _hypolimnion_ (11), homophony (9), homophyly (9), monophony (9), monophyly (9), myiophily (9), nonillion (9), pollinium (9), polyomino (9), polyonymy (9), polyphony (9), unununium (9),

Here's the list for the top row of the keyboard: _rupturewort_ (11), peppertree (10), pepperwort (10), perpetuity (10), perruquier (10), pirouetter (10), prerequire (10), proprietor (10), repertoire (10), repetiteur (10), typewriter (10)

the home row only: _haggadahs_ (9), halakhahs (9), aggadahs (8), alfalfas (8), ashfalls (8), haggadah (8), haggadas (8), halakahs (8), halakhah (8), halakhas (8), halalahs (8), shahadas (8)

I didn't think the bottom row would get anything, but there are two "words" found:  _zzz_ and mm.  
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lol formatting fail.  I have no idea why some _ characters didn't do the job they were supposed to.
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Nice stop motion of water. 
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