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Record-breaking storm hits St. Louis
Topic: St. Louis 12:51 pm EDT, Jul 20, 2006

A powerful summer storm slammed into the St. Louis area Wednesday evening, toppling buildings, street lights, tractor trailers and hundreds of trees.

At least 476,000 customers lost power, Metrolink was shut down . . .

"This is one of the worst storms we can all remember to hit the city of St. Louis in recent years," St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said at a hurriedly called news conference.

. . .
Until Wednesday, the two biggest storms to hit the area in the last few years were in July 2004, when about 225,000 lost power, and in August 2005, which affected about 250,000. It took AmerenUE crews four days to restore power to all customers in 2004 and five days in 2005.

. . .
Skies darkened with blowing dust, shingles flew from roofs, and windows were shattered, all before a drop of rain fell. Blowing dust and debris and then torrents of rain limited visibility on roads.

. . .
Near Lambert Field, strong winds ripped off part of the terminal roof and dumped it across several lanes of Interstate 70. Power was out to all but the East Terminal. The airport was open to some flights but with heavy delays.

Drivers heading east on I-70 near the airport could see camper shells strewn across the highway, twisted sheet metal wrapped around light posts and at least one burning building east of the airport.

I was out driving during the first part of this storm. Heading west on I-70 from St. Charles. At first, it just looked like there was a large darkened patch of sky to the right, typical of a large thunderstorm to our north. A few minutes later though, as I exited 70, I looked back to see what the interstate behind me looked like, and I could no longer see it. It was completely obscured by enormous brown clouds of dust that were blowing in from the north (especially unusual, considering that our weather usually comes in from the west). I proceeded south (heading to my usual Wednesday night sushi gathering with friends), but the weather was actually overtaking me. By the time I got out of my car, there was grit everywhere, and we could smell the fertilizer, since it seemed that the high winds (80 mph) had literally ripped the topsoil off of the farm fields to the north.

Our restaurant was in the lee of a shopping center, but we opened all of the blinds and curtains to watch the storm as we ate, and then afterwards went outside and watched the lightning go on for hours. Huge spidery webs of lightning going from horizon to horizon, my guess from all the static electricity generated by the dry dust in the air.

When I finally headed home, it was a path of destruction. Downed trees, inoperative traffic signals, etc. Though personally, the biggest downer of the night for me, was when I got home and saw that power had been lost at *exactly* 7 p.m., which meant that my TiVo hadn't caught this week's episode of "So You Think You Can Dance". Anyone know where I can download a copy?

Elonka :)

Record-breaking storm hits St. Louis

Binary Revolution, Episode #156
Topic: Technology 2:18 pm EDT, Jul 14, 2006

My third time co-hosting the Binary Revolution webcast with Stankdawg. :) Subjects on the 90-minute program this week include Kryptos, the Smithy Code, Treasure Hunters, Lost, and Wikipedia (the place where I've been spending a lot of time recently).

Elonka :)

Clicking on the link below will take you straight to the MP3 ...

Binary Revolution, Episode #156 odometer rolls over to 2,000,000
Topic: Web Design 1:07 pm EDT, Jun  9, 2006

Happy odometer day to

Site statistics, courtesy of Sitemeter:


Total 872,795
Average Per Day 771
Average Visit Length 4:16
Last Hour 33
Today 244
This Week 5,397


Total 2,000,790 ***************************
Average Per Day 1,643
Average Per Visit 2.1
Last Hour 67
Today 477
This Week 11,504

Top referring domains
1,132 28.3%
461 11.5%
236 5.9%
149 3.7%
113 2.8%
98 2.5%
59 1.5%
58 1.5%
57 1.4%
57 1.4%
52 1.3%
50 1.3%
48 1.2%
39 1.0%
28 0.7%
22 0.6%
22 0.6%
16 0.4%
15 0.4%

Top referring webpages

461 11.5%
71 1.8%
66 1.7%
57 1.4%
50 1.3%
49 1.2%
43 1.1%
41 Search 1.0%
23 0.6%
22 0.6%
19 0.5%
18,66334-0.html 0.5%
16 tut CIA 0.4%
15 tut cia 0.4%
14 0.4%
14 0.4%
13 0.3%
13 0.3%
12 0.3%

Top referring search engines

1,118 28.0%
149 3.7%
113 2.8%
98 2.5%
50 1.3%
47 1.2%
28 0.7%
26 0.7%
22 0.6%
22 0.6%
16 0.4%
15 0.4%
14 0.4%
10 0.3%
10 0.3%
10 ... [ Read More (0.3k in body) ]

Washington Post Express: Code Warrioress
Topic: Cryptography 6:00 pm EDT, May 19, 2006

The first three parts of Kryptos' encoded message have been solved (although just last month sculptor James Sanborn alerted the world to a mistake he made, which changed the meaning a tad), and now fans are focused on deciphering part four. Elonka guesses that there isn't a prize associated with the solution, unlike in her new book, "The Mammoth Book of Secret Codes and Cryptograms." Turns out, there's a puzzle hidden among the puzzles -- how meta, Elonka! -- and if you figure it out, she'll give you a little something. Thus far, no one's managed to crack it ...

And here's a link to the PDF of the actual article in today's tabloid "Washington Post Express." At least, it says on the main page that it's "A Publication of the Washington Post." The fact-checking and editing is a bit weak (My comments were heavily mis-quoted throughout the article, to the point of disseminating some false information), but at least I'm not being set up for anything truly outlandish, like breaking up Britney Spears' marriage or building a secret underground base with aliens or something. ;) Overall, it's "good" publicity - good pic, upbeat article, links to my site, spells my name right, and drops a hint about the meta-puzzle. No major complaints!

Elonka :)

Washington Post Express: Code Warrioress

Toynbee tiles
Topic: Miscellaneous 6:28 pm EDT, May 17, 2006

Toynbee tiles (also called Toynbee plaques) are messages of mysterious origin found embedded in asphalt in several major cities in the United States, and in three South American capitals as well. As of 2006, there are approximately 130 tiles, which are generally about the size of an American license plate but are sometimes considerably larger. They all contain some variation on the following inscription:

IN KUbricK's 2001

Add to the list of, "Odd things that show up around the planet." There are evidently three of them here in St. Louis. Sounds like I need to make a field trip....

Elonka :)

Toynbee tiles

Hartford Courant: Uncrackable Code?
Topic: Miscellaneous 1:34 pm EDT, May 17, 2006


It's the final, unsolved part of a coded sculpture known as Kryptos, and it's been driving cryptologists around the world batty for 16 years. The code is inscribed in a wavy 12-foot-high sculpture made of copper, granite and wood that contains thousands of encrypted characters. That it stands just outside the cafeteria of the CIA's headquarters, unsolved by some of the best cryptographers in the world, only adds to its mythology as one of the toughest codes in the world.

 . . .
For her day job, Dunin works for a St. Louis video-game developer. But cryptology has become an increasingly lucrative side hobby. She frequently lectures on the topic and has a book, "The Mammoth Book of Secret Codes and Cryptograms."

For her, solving codes is more than just a way to kill time.

"It's a search for self knowledge - when I'm cracking a code, it gives me a better understanding of the world and a better understanding of myself."

I dunno about that "lucrative side hobby" part... So far all the costs involved with public speaking, like travel expenses, photography/makeup costs, and mailing supplies/postage to send out press copies, have put me in the red. But it's definitely been bringing fame, which may someday turn into actual income. We'll see. ;) The rest of the article is pretty good though!

Elonka :)

Hartford Courant: Uncrackable Code?

E-3 2006 - Elonka's Report
Topic: Video Games 4:41 pm EDT, May 14, 2006

So to save myself from typing in the same messages to all the IMs that are lighting up my screen with the same question: "How was E-3???", here's the blogged report. :)

E-3 2006 ended on Friday. It's Sunday as I write this, but my ears are still ringing. ;) Yesterday I had a booksigning at an art gallery in Santa Monica, and I could always tell the people who walked in who had just been at E-3, because we all share this kind of glassy-eyed shell-shocked look. ;) There is just *so* much going on, so much sensory overload, so many different things to see, but no matter how much I see, I'm also still aware of all the things I'm *not* seeing, and when the show ends, I have this mixture of emotions of relief that it's over, and yet disappointment at everything I may have missed.

There was the usual amount of hype and promotion and "spin-meisters", mixed in with flashing lights and 5-story tall posters and the booms of videogame explosions all around, but mixed in with all the chaos, a few things stand out in my memory.

The #1 thing I remember, is the beautiful 3-D sidewalk art that was being created by artist Kurt Wenner, in the middle of the floor at South Hall. Look at it from one angle and you see strange elongated shapes. But look at it from the correct angle, and it looks 3-D, like there's a huge hole in the floor and monsters are crawling out of it. Wenner sat on the floor actually creating the drawing during much of E-3, and there was also a camera taking time-lapse pictures of the process. It was fun to watch it play back in high-speed mode, both to watch the art take shape, and to see the crowds of E-3 flow around it, as well as watching the shadows move past the drawing, since sunlight was streaming in through the skylight above, so there was a sundial effect as the shadows of the girders moved past -- really beautiful, on a lot of different levels.

In terms of actual electronic game stuff, the top buzz was definitely about the new Nintendo console, with the unfortunate name "Wii". I hate the name, but the two-handed controller looks really interesting. I didn't get a chance to play with it myself (the Nintendo booth again had lines that were four hours long), but the demos that I saw from a distance looked intriguing.

I also enjoyed seeing the "retro" games making a comeback. For example, this year is evidently the 25-year anniversary of the game "Frogger". And another of the handhelds was showing off an updated version of "Lemmings". Plus there was another retro-looking game that got a lot of attention, called "Geometry Wars". It had a multi-story screen, and at one point as I passed by there was actually a big crowd of E-3ers who had gathered around to watch someone playing, and rooting for them to beat the high score (they didn't make it, but the entire crowd applauded them for t... [ Read More (0.5k in body) ] traffic report
Topic: Web Design 1:46 pm EDT, May 14, 2006

My site is closing in on the "2 million page views" mark. At normal traffic levels it'll happen sometime during the summer, though if another big media blitz happens it could roll over in a few days. We'll see!

Total 840,457
Average Per Day 1,233
Average Visit Length 4:26
Last Hour 53
Today 383
This Week 8,628


Total 1,928,104
Average Per Day 2,739
Average Per Visit 2.2
Last Hour 110
Today 882
This Week 19,173

Referring sites: - Wikipedia keeps climbing, and has overtaken stumbleupon. And Digg is no longer showing up in the top list

1,296 32.4%
264 6.6%
230 5.8%
212 5.3%
166 4.2%
104 2.6%
92 2.3%
56 1.4%
51 1.3%
44 1.1%
42 1.1%
42 1.1%
41 1.0%
38 1.0%
37 0.9%
28 0.7%

Referring search engines: (Google google google)

1,729 Not referred from a search engine 43.2%
1,282 32.1%
212 5.3%
164 4.1%
104 2.6%
56 1.4%
51 1.3%
44 1.1%
37 0.9%
24 0.6%
20 0.5%
17 0.4%
14 0.4%
11 0.3%
10 0.3%
10 0.3%
10 0.3%
9 0.2%
9 0.2%

Search words: - The "king tut" and "one who knows" terms are from the webquest trivia quiz at

1,728 Not referred from a search engine 43.2%
547 kryptos 13.7%
181 king tut cia 4.5%
72 king tut and cia 1.8%
59 kryptos the one who knows 1.5%
51 king tut and the cia 1.3%
36 decrypted text of kryptos 0.9%
29 the one who knows 0.7%
27 the one who knows kryptos 0.7%
26 king tut, cia 0.7%
23 ciphers 0.6%
21 kryptos code 0.5%
19 kryptos "the one who knows" 0.5%
16 kryptos sculpture 0.4%
14 kryptos exact location 0.4%
14 cia and king tut 0.4%
14 37 57 6.5 n 77 8 44 w 0.4%
13 cia king tut 0.3%
12 king tut cia 0.3%

Carroll and Graf Publishers
Topic: Cryptography 1:05 pm EDT, May 14, 2006

The Mammoth Book of Secret Codes and Cryptograms
Elonka Dunin

Cool, my book made the front page of the "Carroll & Graf" publishers' website....

Elonka :)

Carroll and Graf Publishers

ABC News: McCain Stands With Old Foe Falwell
Topic: Elections 12:55 pm EDT, May 14, 2006

McCain delivered an address arguing that dissent and disagreement in American political life are good things. It was a not an inappropriate topic given both his past animosity toward Falwell and other conservative Christian activists, and the fact that he'll be delivering the same address next week before more liberal audiences in Manhattan, when he speaks at Columbia University's class day and at commencement for the New School. At both locations, students and faculty are protesting his presence, given his support of the war in Iraq, his opposition to same-sex marriage, and his rapprochement with Falwell.

"We have our disagreements, we Americans," McCain said in his speech, referring to debates over government, faith, and national security. "These are important questions, worth arguing about. We should contend over them with one another. It is more than appropriate: It is necessary that even in times of crisis, especially in times of crisis, we fight among ourselves for the things we believe in. It is not just our right, but our civic and moral obligation."

McCain and Falwell?? I mean, I agree about the public debate thing, and I adore McCain, but... Falwell?? Interesting . . .

ABC News: McCain Stands With Old Foe Falwell

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