Thursday, August 30, 2012

Answer: What is the mysterious sculpture?

I thought this was going to be a difficult search, but the Challengers proved me wrong!  Most of you solved this in 1 to 3 minutes, which is a great time! 

The I way solved this problem was via Video search.  

Since this is a kinetic sculpture, I figured that I wasn't the only one to take a video of this.  I also thought that Image search might be a bit tricky.  So, searching in Google Videos for [ flip animated sculpture airport ] leads quickly to an instantly recognizable video of "Cloud."

Once you know its name you can find other lovely videos.  This second video turns out to have all kinds of information, including a link in the comments field to the Troika website, and from there you can answer all of the questions:  If we jump to their web page about the sculpture:  (extracted from that page...)  

Troika [who are: Eva Rucki, Conny Freyer, Sebastien Noe ] was commissioned by Artwise Curators to create a signature piece for the entrance of the new British Airways luxury lounges in Heathrow Terminal 5. 
In response, we created 'Cloud', a five meter long digital sculpture whose surface is covered with 4638 flip-dots that can be individually addressed by a computer to animate the entire skin of the sculpture. 
Flip-dots were conventionally used in the 70s and 80s to create signs in train-stations and airports. By audibly flipping between black and silver, the flip-dots create mesmerizing waves as they chase across the surface of Cloud. Reflecting its surrounding colours, the mechanical mass is transformed into an organic form that appears to come alive, shimmering and flirting with the onlookers that pass by. 
The sculpture is located in Terminal 5 in the atrium hall that leads to the British Airways First Class Lounges.  
The brief from British Airways was open and simple: create a signature piece that marks the entrance to the First Class Lounges and signifies the transition between the busy shopping floor and the calm and serenity of the lounges. Working from the idea of clouds and the contrast between the busy, hectic airport experience and the calm, luminous and ethereal world that we discover as we fly through this dense layer we came up with the basic metaphor, atmosphere and form of the installation. 
... one of our inspirations came from the old electromagnetic flip-dots that were used in railway and airport signs from the mid 70s. Those signs, with their characteristic flicking noise that instantly invokes the idea of travel, represent to us a golden age of technology when analogue and digital started to merge... 

          More info:

Search Lessons:  I have to admit that there were many, many different ways to solve this problem.  

Here are some of the successful queries that searchers used: 

     [ airport terminal sculpture aluminium ] 
     [ airport hanging electronic sculpture ] 
     [ mirror sculpture airport ]
     [ airport sculpture flipping discs ] 
     [ airport sculpture silver discs ] 

Clearly, having the search terms "airport" and "sculpture" in the query was important.  How you described the kinetic aspect or the makeup of the discs (mirror, aluminum, flipping) all led to the same places.  

But the lesson is clear:  Use the information you have as a base, and then vary the descriptive terms as a way to zero in on what you're looking for.  You KNOW that it's a sculpture in an airport--but you don't know how someone might write about the flipping discs.  (Would they say "disks" or "circles" or "flipdots" or ...)  

And finally, kudos to everyone who listened to the sound and figured out it was British Air.  I'm impressed.  I was there, and it wasn't clear that *I* understood what they were saying!  Great sleuthing! 

Search on! 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wednesday search challenge (8/29/12): The mysterious sculpture

As you know by now, I travel a bit.  And sometimes, you get to see some pretty remarkable things.  

I was rushing through the airport the other day when this amazing sculpture caught my eye.  

I only had time to grab a few seconds of video with my camera, knowing that I could figure out everything else about it once I got home.  

Can you? 

Question:  Who is the maker of this remarkable sculpture?  What is its name?  And where is this hanging? 

Simple really.  Took me about 2 minutes to figure it out.  

How long will it take you?  

Remember to let us know HOW you searched for the answer... and tell us how long it took you to find the answers.  

Search on! 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Two new Scholar features: Advanced Search, My Updates

If you're a regular reader of the Google Scholar blog (and if you use Scholar more than a few times a year, I highly recommend signing up for the email updates), you already know what I'm about to tell you.  

But if, like me, you use Scholar all the time, but neglected to signup for the emails.. then this post will help you out.  

Earlier today I went to and found the page looking like this:  
Question:  Where did the nice blue link to "Advanced Search" go?  

ADVANCED SEARCH MOVED!  I had to poke around quite a while before thinking of checking out the Scholar blog looking for any updates. Sure enough, I found it--on the update of May 11, 2012.... Note that Scholar's Advanced Search button has moved!  
This is what you see when you roll-over that down-arrow on the right.   The link's not gone, but moved under the downward arrow on the right side of the query box.  (You might think this is kind of random, but this is the same UI treatment that Google News has for their Advanced Search UI.)  

When you click on the down-arrow, you'll see the options panel open up....    

If you're an Advanced Search UI kind of person, you might note that the UI is a little simpler than before.  You can still get to the OLD UI (if you really want it; but I leave that as an exercise for the reader...) 

And once I started reading, I realized that I'd missed several announcements.  

MY UPDATES:  The most interesting one is the new presence of "My Updates" in the upper right. 

As the Scholar blog post said:  
We analyze your articles (as identified in your Scholar profile), scan the entire web looking for new articles relevant to your research, and then show you the most relevant articles when you visit Scholar. 
Well, that's kind of nice!  It's a bit like having a Google Alert set up for you... on EVERYTHING you're professionally interested in (that is, according to your Google Scholar profile).  

When I clicked on "My updates," Scholar gave me a bunch of citations to papers that I didn't know about... but really wish I did.    

All of these are papers written by other people who either cite my own work (such as all of my sensemaking articles--cool!) or refer to concepts and key phrases (such as gaze-tracking and aggregated search) that Google has pattern-matched for me.  It's a little like an academic match-making service that digs deeply into your work to find other work that's compatible (or at least interesting) with your own.  

Okay--lesson learned:  I just signed Google Scholar in my Google Reader.  That way, when I check Reader, I'll see the updates there.  

Search on! 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Answer: What am I doing?

Quick answer:  I'm in Amsterdam, standing in line for the Van Gogh Museum. 

I'm impressed at how well everyone did on this search challenge!  

Here's the way I'd solve this problem.  

Looking at the image, I'd notice the big sign in the foreground and do this query with the text on it: 

     [ Hard Rock near Leidseplein ] 

I'm trying to figure out generally where the photo was taken.  

(Several people pointed out that they couldn't quite read the text.  Luckily, Google helped with the spell-correction and get the corrected spelling for Leidseplein.) 

From this, it's pretty easy to figure out that I'm in Amsterdam.  From that information I'd go to Google Maps, get to Amsterdam, and then look for the Hard Rock Cafe.

Then...  using Search Nearby for [randstad] using another visual clue. 

 Which gives a number of possible locations.  These are the top two... 

 You can then just check the two locations with StreetView, here's the first one (A):  

 You can use StreetView to look all around in the different directions.  That's not it.  Let's check out the other location (B) with StreetView.  Voila!  This looks exactly like the photo I took.  
if you then pivot around and look behind you...  this is what you see.  

The Van Gogh Museum, which is across the street from the Randstad office.  (If you look in the lower right corner of the map, you'll see that the museum appears down there next to the B location.)  

Search Lessons:  Sometimes search is really search!  You might have to check out a number of different possibilites.  In this case, we got lucky and only had to look at two places.

Working from the text available in the image ("Hard Rock...") we were able to zero in on the city name, then using "Search Nearby" with another clue, we could get close to the target. 

So... knowing about "Search Nearby" is a handy tool to have in your personal search toolbox.  Nothing quite like it anywhere nearby! 

Search on!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wednesday Search Challenge (8/22/12): What am I doing?

Today a simple challenge to state, but probably fairly difficult to do.  

Below is a picture I took yesterday.  The question is pretty simple:

     What was I doing when I took this picture?  

Once you figure it out, the answer is pretty obvious.  (And no, the answer is not taking a picture...)  As you can guess, I'm standing in line.  But where, and why?    

And, as usual, please let us know HOW you figured it out, and HOW LONG it took you to do so.  

Search on!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Answer: Who caused the bluebirds demise?

What’s going on with bluebirds, Henry IV, and their possible population demise? 

When I heard the original comment on the radio, I was able to track it down by finding the program web site (in this case, “To the Best of Our Knowledge” at and find the program (search for [ Shakespeare starling ] and you find it in one click), and then listen to the program again.

In the radio show (and in the book “How Shakespeare ChangedEverything”) Stephen Marche writes that starlings were mentioned in one line of Henry IV, part 2, which then motivated Bronx pharmacist Eugene Schieffelin to introduce 60 pairs of starlings into Central Park in the winter of 1890.  That succeeded so well that there are now, 120 years later (2012), more than 200 million starlings in North America, where they cause huge damage to fruit crops, buildings and... incidentally… other birds. 

That’s such an astonishing claim that I had to see if it was true.

The easy way to find this thread of a topic is to search for:

Which leads to a number of articles (including the Wikipedia article on bluebirds, noting that there are 3 different kinds of bluebirds in the U.S.) that all mention competition between starlings and bluebirds, and all point to Eugene Schieffelin as the perpetrator.  (My favorite article in the Bluebird genre is: “A history of Bluebirds” by the Sialis organization, so named for the Latin name for the Eastern Bluebird.  It's marvelous what fans will do.) 

A little background research on Eugene Schieffelin reveals a real character.  He was a member of the AmericanAcclimatization Society as the group that released starlings into Central Park as a kind of art project in 1890 to make Central Park a little more cultured, and that meant Shakespearean. 

Lest we judge them too harshly, this really was before people understood the terrible effects that introduced speicies could have in a new ecosystem.  

As it turned out, most of the birds they introduced from Shakespeare’s mentions turned out to be harmless or low reproducers.  The exceptions—starlings and English sparrows—continue to plague North America to this day. 

Short answers to questions:  

(1) WHAT connection does Henry IV have with the collapse of bluebird populations? 
ANS: The starling was mentioned in "Henry IV, Part 1" for its remarkable mimicry abilities,  where it was to be used as a constant reminder of a wrong my repeating the name of the wrongdoer. They were introduced to New York in 1890 and propogated wildly across North America.  But it turns out that starlings bully several native species, often evicting bluebirds and woodpeckers.
(2) WHO was such a fan of Henry IV that he caused the demise of bluebirds in North America?
ANS:  Eugene Schieffelin, a pharmacist in the Bronx, New York City. 
(3) Finally, WHAT is the name of the organization that sponsored his (now notorious) act
         that led to the problems with bluebirds? 
ANS: Schieffelin belonged to the American Acclimatization Society

Wait... there's more!  

Several people pointed out that in a Scientific American articlefrom May 2008,   Steve Mirsky writes “And starlings actually appear to be innocent in the case of the missing bluebirds. The feather friends at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology contend on their Web site that 
“…a study in 2003 found few actual effects on populations of 27 native species. Only sapsuckers showed declines because of starlings, and other species appeared to be holding their own against the invaders.”  So when it comes to songbird decline, as Shakespeare almost said, maybe the fault is not in our starlings but in ourselves." 

That's a clever closing line.  I saw this SciAm article as well, so I did a bit more looking.  First, I found the original paper

Koenig, W. D. 2003. European starlings and their effect on native cavity-nesting birds. Conservation Biology 17: 1134-1140.  pdf 

This is where the quote comes from…

Then I did a search like this:

And discovered that in a more recent article (2012), the Ornithology Lab at Cornell NOW says: 
“…They often out-compete woodpeckers, Great Crested Flycatchers, Tree Swallows, Eastern Bluebirds, and Purple Martins for nesting sites. Consequently, the populations of these and other native cavity-nesting species have declined.” 

In another web article, Cornell’s Ornithologists write:  “They [starlings] nest in cavities (holes in trees, buildings, and nest boxes) and will aggressively destroy eggs and kill nestlings of native birds (like bluebirds and woodpeckers) to use their cavities.”  

This made me curious, so I started looking at Google Scholar for a few papers in the recent ornithological literature to follow up on this.

[ bluebirds starlings ]   -- on Google Scholar, which I then sorted by date to see the latest hits

This leads to a paper: “The relationship between introducedEuropean Starlings and the reproductive activities of Mountain Bluebirds andTree Swallows in British Columbia” Canada (Koch, et al.; International Journal of Avian Science, v 154, n 3, p 590-600, July 2012)  

The gist of which is:
 “Starlings and Mountain Bluebirds showed inverse trends in nest abundance. Mountain Bluebird clutch sizes were smaller if they were initiated later in the breeding season…”  

Which boils down to this:  Where starlings go, bluebirds have a tough time.  They compete for nesting cavities and food resources.  And, tellingly, starlings will actively and aggressively evict bluebird nestlings. 

So it’s not quite an open-and-shut case, but the preponderance of evidence does seem to be that starlings stress bluebirds (and sapsuckers). 

And for all the hassle that starlings cause, you still have to appreciate the writing style of this article about starlings vs. bluebirds fromSports Illustrated (Robert Cantwell, 1974)  

“There are about 110 species of starlings in the world, but the only one in North America is the European starling, Sturnus vulgaris, which until Schieffelin went to work ranged from Great Britain to parts of Mongolia. The starling averages 8" in length and has a lustrous metallic sheen to its greenish-black, lightly spotted plumage. It has a yellowish-white bill and short legs set wide apart, which give it a bowlegged appearance. Starlings walk rather than hop, placing one foot in front of the other in a way that makes them appear pigeon-toed. They have a peculiar swinging gait, as though they were shouldering someone off a sidewalk. They travel in flocks, and when they feed along the ground they walk fast, all heading in the same direction, staying close together, and moving with a purposeful, disciplined and deliberate air; no grazing or straying, just eating and hurrying along in search of mischief.” 

That’s great, muscular writing.  While it would be rejected by any decent scientific journal, you can’t help but feel an appreciation for the starlings, bullies though they may be. 

Search lessons:  As we've talked about before, you often need to dig one or two layers deeper, especially when you run across information to the contrary of what you're expecting.  Be sure not to fall prey to confirmation bias, just keep checking until you see the latest interpretation of events.  

Keep searching! 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wednesday search challenge (8/15/2012): Who caused the demise of bluebirds in North America?

While driving around town this past week, I was half-listening to the radio when I heard the most astonishing phrase.  It was so remarkable I grabbed a pen and scribbled it onto a piece of handy newspaper. 

Later, when I went to track down the quotation, I had some trouble—I’m not sure I got it all right.  But I know the sense of the quote is correct.  But what’s the rest of the story? 

Here’s what I heard:

“The prairies of North America would be full of bluebirds were it not for a single line in Henry IV part 1.”

Huh?  That’s such a striking phrase that I had to dig into it. What could possibly be the connection here?  

Remarkably enough, after just a few minutes of searching, I was able to find the original quote AND discover the connections here.  Can you?  

Today’s search challenge has 3 parts:

(1) WHAT connection does Henry IV have with the collapse of bluebird populations? 

(2) WHO was such a fan of Henry IV that he caused the demise of bluebirds in North 

(3) Finally, WHAT is the name of the organization that sponsored his (now notorious) act
         that led to the problems with bluebirds? 

As usual, please let us know how you figured these questions out—what resources you used—and about how long it took you. 

Fly onto the net and discover!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Internet search: What makes it simple, difficult or impossible?

On the face of it you’d think that searching on a modern search engine such as Google is a pretty simple and straightforward skill.  And mostly, you’d be right.  It’s the exceptions that are interesting.

Every so often we’ve all had the experience of trying to find something that we just can’t quite seem to nail down.  You expect there’s a web page out there somewhere in the billions of possible pages, but you just can’t figure out what to do to make it pop to the top of the search results.  Even more strangely, you’ve probably also had a frustrating moment of being unable to find something, then told a friend about it, only to have the perfect result show up when they did exactly the right query. 

That's frustrating.  

Sometimes you (or your colleague) do just get lucky and manage to phrase the query just so.  The good news is that search engines do a remarkably good job on the vast majority of searches.   That’s where the skill of search comes into play. 

More than almost any other technology, search engines have transformed the way we do research:  papers and results that were previously undiscoverable (or only painfully and laboriously discoverable) now have become simple and quick to locate.  Where graduate students once slaved endlessly over a hot photocopier in library stacks, they can now run a search, locate the relevant papers, and all the papers those papers reference, and so on.  The scholarship of research really IS different these days.  It’s not just simpler, but also broader and deeper.  Given the same number of research hours, one can potentially reach much, much more.

What makes a search hard?  Back to that sticky search problem:  What causes difficult search tasks, and what can we do to work around the less obvious search problems?

Tough problems are often called “long tail” problems because they’re tasks that take more than the average number of searches to accomplish.  As with most internet-related human behaviors, search tasks follow a power distribution curve in the number of searches needed to satisfy a search goal.  

If you’re just looking for the main web site of a university department, that’s pretty simple to do and takes only a search or two.  

But if you’re trying to understand the latest research findings on the early detection and treatment recommendations of autism, that’s a task that will take many searches over an extended period of time. Long tasks are well out on the long part of the tail.

Difficult search tasks are difficult for a number of reasons.  First and foremost is an effect well known in cognitive psychology—the framing effect.  When a searcher initially conceives of a search task, the problem is sometimes framed in terms that are relevant to the searcher, but not necessarily in the language of the literature.  This most commonly happens when the searcher seeks out information in a domain in which they are not expert.  

A friend recently spent a great deal of time searching for the data set on which gestational diabetes blood sugar levels were established, but had no success until she determined that the appropriate word to use in searching was “pre-prandial” (as in “pre-prandial blood glucose levels”).  Once she discovered that word, the world of scholarly literature about pre-prandial glucose testing was easily found; without the key term, it was merely a long slog through general results.  In this case, the language she used to frame the question pre-disposed the search engine to the non-technical literature.  Once a key-term for a search task is found, an entirely new universe of results suddenly becomes open for inspection.

Luckily, this “key term” effect happens primarily in technical domains where the long-tail effect tails over.  In more common search tasks, many other people have made followed search paths that have led to success.  In these tasks, search engine automatic synonymization works very effectively to get the searcher to their results rapidly.  While Google will synonymize “blood sugar” with “glucose,” too few people search for pre-prandial tests norms for the term “pre-prandial glucose” to be suggested as a synonym for “blood sugar test.”

Another method for getting out of a framing mindset is to check out the “related searches” that other searchers have used.   (Related searches are shown in the left hand navigation panel or at the top of the organic results.)  These searches made by others working in the same domain can often lead to useful re-framings of the search task.  The query [ power law ] might have other related search such as [ pareto ], [ power distribution ], [ Zipf distribution ], or [ 80 20 rule ]—all useful suggestions that might easily unstuck a conceptual fixedness.

Practicing search works!  Like many expert behaviors, search is one that rewards skill-development, practice and attention.  In our studies, we have shown that spending a modest amount of time learning the attendant skills of search pays off in much reduced search times and search accuracy.  

For example, a crucial skill in reading a search-results page (indeed, any online document) is knowing how to Find a word on the page.  In all browsers, this the Control-F / Command-F / Edit>Find function to locate a given word in the document.  Surprisingly, our surveys show that roughly 90% of the US English-speaking population does NOT know this key skill.  Once told about this, many search tasks are significantly simplified, and on long documents (e.g., that 150-page PDF highly technical monograph you’re reading) the task of locating relevant information goes from extremely-difficult to trivial.

Similarly, the skill of scoping a search by limiting searches to a particular resource can be very useful.  Some difficult searches suffer from having search terms that are too common, making it difficult for the searcher to separate the wheat from the chaff.  For instance, suppose you have a vague recollection that there was an interesting article about crossword puzzles in some issue of the APS Observer.  Doing a general web search for [ crossword ] is unlikely to bring any issue of the Observer into the top 10 results.  Knowing how to limit your search to just the APA Observer website will bring all of the articles about crossword puzzles into immediate focus.  The way to do this scoped search is by using the site: operator.  

Example:  [ crossword ] 

This is a handy skill to have when you want to search different repositories.  (And of course, if your search comes up empty, be sure to try your search without the site: operator.)

Thing you might not have thought about:  But the surgical scalpel of key word choice cuts both ways, sometimes pushing your search investigation into a particular context that you might not have considered.  For example, when searching for a door lever to be put onto a child’s door handle to simplify door-opening, including the search term “child” automatically puts your searches into the realm of children.  If you’re searching for a typically childhood disease or disorder, that’s usually good, but in the context of doorknobs and handle extensions,  queries like [child door knob] are dominated by the much more typical problem of preventing children from opening particular doors.  For this particular search, rethinking the problem in terms of other use cases leads to a better search experience.  For instance, older people also have problems opening doors because of reduced grip strength and imprecise motor movements.  The search [elder door knob] gives much better results for this particular search task of looking for aids for door opening.  The important thing to remember is that web search operates over the entire web, which might well include topics and areas you might not be considering when you form an initial concept for the search.

Everything changes... constantly: Of course, a key thing to remember about web search is that both the contents of the web and what search engines can do to process that content are constantly under revision.  What this means for you is that search is a skill like any other.  It is useful for professionals to pay attention to new content resources as they come online (that is, accessible through search engines), watching for new search capabilities (such as the ability to search realtime streams for breaking news on current events), and new ways of viewing the results of searches (timeline views of search results).  There are classes, information streams and resources available for staying on top of what’s going on.  To be the best possible searcher, you need to make time to track these new capabilities as well as understand the entailments of what’s possible.

Keep learning:  With the inexorable and rapid transformation of the world-wide web into a resource of incredible depth and breadth, you owe it to yourself to stay in touch as new materials and new tools transform research problems from very difficult or impossible to quick and simple tasks.  The web changes, so do the tools; keep learning about what’s possible.

Originally written for the APS “Observer” journal.   
Link to original post. Edited and for publication in this blog. 

Photo credit: Sybren A. Stüvel.  Thanks!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Answer: Who said that?

Quick answers:  

"santimanitay" is the name of a song AND a common Trinidadian phrase ("sans humanite"). 

"to lime" is to relax with friends, as in "to relax on the beach with buddies" (again, Trinidadian) 

"extempo" is a style of competitive extemporaneous singing, where multiple singers make up the lyrics in real-time, often commenting on the other singers as they go... 

and... I was at Yoshi's jazz club in San Francisco, listening to Etienne Charles, the trumpeter from Trinidad, who was performing with his group.  

Now... how can someone figure out all of that?  

First, a small confession. I made the problem easier than it really was.  What I wrote yesterday was: 

       “...we’re going to play santimanite then go lime on the beach to extempo…” 

But the truth is that I heard something a bit more confusing that than. 

I actually heard "play sandymanity..."  When I did this search originally, I found out that it was actually "santimanitay," and so I cut out the first step, which was actually the hardest part.  (This is a bit like the problem with mondegreens.  See my earlier post on mondegreens.) How DO you go from something vaguely heard to actual term in use?  

Keep guessing:  In this case, I just had to keep guessing variations on the spelling.  Eventually (after about 5 minutes), I figured out that the "santimanite" variant was the right hit (a Trinidaidan song).  If that hadn't worked out, I was going to start looking through discographies of the trumpeter and see if I could recognize anything similar.  Luckily, I found it after just a few tries, mostly by changing the parts of the word that seemed most likely to be heard as a variant.  That is, "sandy..." could be "sanbe..." or "santee..." or "santi..."  Likewise, "..manite" could be heard as "..mandite" or "..manditey" or "..manitay."  

Interestingly, "santimanite" (or "santimanitay") is derived from "san humanite" meaning (literally) "without humanity," but colloquially, "without mercy."  

Once I knew that "santimanite" is the name of a traditional Trinidadian tune, I knew enough to search for "lime" as a word with a Trinidadian twist.  

     [ lime Trinidad ] 

was enough to give several definitions and typical uses.  

Now we're getting somewhere.  Doing the same trick with "extempo" 

     [ extempo Trinidad ] 

shows us that "extempo" is a style of improvisational singing (often done to the tune of "Santimanitay") where one singer will make up the lyrics as they go along, somewhat in the style of freestyle rap.  In competition, topics are drawn from a hat, and the singers go head-to-head in making up verses.  

You'd think there'd be some extempo on YouTube, and sure enough, there's a bunch.  Here's a nice example from YouTube showing a couple of singers (Lingo and Black Sage) doing extempo from Carnival, 2007.  

Search Lessons:  First, when searching for unfamiliar terms, sometimes you can figure them out just by fooling around a bit.  Don't get too hung up getting everything just right, often the Google spellchecker will help out by suggesting alternatives.  (This is ultimately what worked for me.)  Check the results and iterate.  

Second, when searching for word meanings, it's often useful to include a "context term" to set the stage.  As you know, "lime" has a LOT of meanings.  But in Trinidadian use, there's only one use as a verb.  Including the word Trinidad simplified that search tremendously.  

Finally, as most readers figured out, it's a small step from [ Trinidadian trumpter ] to discover that it's Etienne Charles.  A quick search for his tour schedule, and you'll find he was at Yoshi's on Tuesday night, August 7th, 2012. 

Search on! 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wednesday Search Challenge (8/8/12): Who said that?

Here’s a kind of search problem that people have fairly often.  

You hear one thing and try to understand what’s going on, despite not being completely sure of what you heard.  Here's example (and a true story)…

I was in a jazz club last night, when the band leader said the most curious thing, he said (roughly transcribed), 

     “...we’re going to play santimanite then go lime on the beach to extempo…” 

What an extraordinary sentence.  

And I’m pretty sure I got the words reasonably accurately, but I have no idea what’s going on! 

Question for today:  

       Who is the trumpeter that said this curious phrase?  (And what does it mean??)

(Once you know that, you can probably figure out where I was last night...)  

Tell us HOW you figured this one out and about how long you took. 

Search on!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Answer: Where was the sculptor born?

Apparently this question was a bit harder than most.  Of the people who sent in their times, the average was 16.9 minutes.  Excellent dedication on the part of the Search Challenge solvers! 

The sport under discussion here is Chilean rodeo, which I found by searching for the two terms that I didn’t recognize at the start—huasa and collera.  

From these terms you can quickly get to Wikipedia, which defines them as Spanish language terms used in Chilean rodeo.  I also did a search for [ Michelle Recart ] and found that she was the first woman to be a huasa in the sport of Chilean rodeo.  Interesting!  That's a good start. 

Next part of the question:  Who are the champions?  [ Chilean rodeo champions ] gives me a nice set of results, but the second one:

Has a “jump to” link to “National champions of Chile” which turns out to be a list of the rodeo stars that have done well over time.  Reading a bit shows  that the two greatest champions were Ramón Cardemil and Juan Carlos Loaiza.  I did two quick searches, one for [Ramón Cardemil statue] and another for [ Juan Carlos Loaiza statue ]  (and just to be sure, I ALSO did these searches using “Translated foreign pages” (a tool on the left-hand side under “Show search tools").  

After reading a few pages, it was clear that Cardemil has a statue in Curicó, Chile, called "La Atajada”—now, who’s the sculptor? 

Again, using “Translated foreign pages” as the search tool, and a query like [ la atajada sculptor ] it’s not hard to find that it was made by Graciela Albridi Cifuentes.

Once more, a search for [ Graciela Albridi Cifuentes born ] (again, using "Translated") leads to her personal web site saying  she was born in Syria to Chilean parents.

So, Chilean rodeo (which is the second most popular sport in Chile) has only two mega-winners since the sport began record-keeping in 49.  Ramón Cardemil Moraga and Juan Carlos Loaiza MacLeod both have 7 wins according to the English-language Wikipedia article on Chilean Rodeo winners.  

And now we can figure out when the unveiling took place.  Moraga (aka Don Ramón) has a statue to him in Curicó, made by Graciela Albridi, August 19, 2006.  (As seen by the date on the photo on Albridi’s website.) See: Here’s the image linked from Albridi’s website showing the unveiling.  Looking at the date in the lower right corner, it’s Aug 19, 2006
In the comments, FCDukie points out:  "Apparently Ramon Cardemil does not actually have the most championships in the sport, that title goes to Juan Carlos Loaiza, with 8 championships to Ramon's 7."  And FCDukie is correct…  thanks for the correction! 

Searching for [Juan Carlos Loaiza ] using “Translated” leads you to the Spanish language version of the Wikipedia entry for Loaiza, which documents his 8th win in 2012. 

Note to self (and to all searchers interested in accuracy), always second-source your facts, especially when they're from another culture and language!  (The English language version of Wikipedia... or other sources... might be a year or more out of date!) 

Search on!  (In translated foreign pages!) 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wednesday search challenge (8/1/12): Where was the sculptor born?

Michelle Recart recently competed in a sporting event as a huasa, half of a collera, the first to do so since the rules were changed in 2010 to allow women to compete.  (And no, those words aren’t typos…) 

Her appearance was notable because the sport has a long-standing tradition of being exclusively male.  All of the sport’s heros are men, and until Michelle Recart started competing, all of the competitors were male.  

And yet, interestingly enough, the only statue raised to this sport’s greatest hero, winner of most championships since the sport began, was sculpted by a woman. 

Question for today:  Where was she (the woman who made the sculpture) born? 

Extra credit:  Where is this sculpture located (what city)?  
                            And when was this sculpture unveiled? 

As usual, please let us know how long you took to answer the question, and what search/research methods you used to find it! 

Search on! 

Image credit:  Wikipedia, 1940