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Archive for September, 2008

Extreme Off-Roading

Monday, September 29th, 2008

I’m determined to get a lot of painting done this week so my posts are going to be short.

My wife found these pictures and video of extreme off-roading. Be sure to check out the first person video which is here.

Matt sent me this link where you can sell your old electronics.

And finally I normally have a funny animal picture here but I got a laugh out of this redneck fire alarm.


Thursday, September 25th, 2008

I’m painting today so I just wanted to take a moment to share this with you.

I saw this at Dvorak‘s site. It’s a hilarious version of the theme song from Shaft done by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.


Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

There is a video out there which teaches you something about perception. I had seen it on some site originally but it took some looking to find it. What I want you to do is watch the video and count the number of times the people in the white shirts pass the basketball. Here it is, it takes a while to load. When you are done watching it, leave the window open because you may want to see it again.

I’m going to get back to that in a minute. The video was also presented in a TED Talk by Michael Shermer publisher of Skeptic magazine. I think it was probably this talk but then got edited for copyright reasons. When I went looking for it and realized it wasn’t part of the talk I still thought the guy was interesting and entertaining.

Okay back to the first video. Did you see the guy in the gorilla suit?

If you liked the Virgin Mary muffin check out these images. I really liked the third one.

I’m no economist but the first thing I would do in a financial crisis is look to see how other countries handled a similar situation. Here’s how the Swedes handled it.

Esquire magazine recently had a cover created with E-paper. The stuff is remarkably tough.

Looking at the pictures of this snake, I was reminded there are real monsters out there.

And finally, it’s not very good at it but this cat tries to play the piano.

Future Shock

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

I read this article at InfoWorld on 10 future technologies which may be available in ten years. Number 8 is a little scary. I laughed at number 3. Everything works and you don’t have to wait. Some times I sit down to do something on my computer and by the time it boots and everything asks me if I want to upgrade it, I’ve forgotten what it was I was going to do in the first place. I guess I have thought about the idea of being able to capture all of your life and record it somehow. As much as it would be nice to be able to create a high resolution image of something beautiful you saw when you didn’t have your camera. I often think how strange it would be now to be a kid and have something stupid you did being posted to YouTube.

The idea of using a space elevator has been around for a long time. This article points out carbon nanotubes would only have to be 4 times stronger than they are now to accomplish that. This is one technology I thought was well off into the future but if you believe the article, the Japanese are planning to build one.

I’ve often felt like there should be a way to go play golf on an extremely hot day and stay cool somehow, especially if you rented a cart. This device sounds like the only real difference between it and sticking you hands in cold water is that it draws a vacuum on your palms to speed up the process. The part where the guy goes from 180 pull-ups to 616 in six weeks is pretty amazing.

First there was dark energy, then dark matter, now dark flow. Is there a cosmic vacuum cleaner sucking up the universe?

This is an ad for condoms which has an interactive visualization of the “beer goggle” effect.

I thought this came out kind of cool. A guy decorates his basement by drawing on the walls with a Sharpie.

Probably not safe for work, but if you can cross view, check out these photos from a bikini contest. If you want to learn to cross view, see my tutorial here.

TV on the web is really evolving. Now at Hulu you can watch shows which have not premiered on TV yet.

And finally, here is your funny animal picture.


Monday, September 22nd, 2008

I played this little robot game over the weekend called light-bot. You have to program the robot to step over squares and light them up. You create your program by dragging the symbols onto your programming space. If you aren’t a programmer, I think it gives you a pretty good idea of what programmers do, although it’s a pretty simple programming language. Also the days of trying to keep your program small are long gone. I think it also illustrates a mistake programmers make so often we just call it OBO (off by one).

There are 12 levels. I’m thinking I must have missed something on level 10 because even though I finally solved it, it seemed so much harder than all the other levels. My solution involved re-using a lot of code where the robot did a bunch of useless but not harmful things.

The Keppe motor is another one of those motors where the inventors claim it gets ‘free’ energy. They wanted to get you to fill out a form to see a video so I did a check of YouTube and found these. If they have actually achieved what they claim, they are brilliant but I can’t say they know how to make a good video. The real demonstration of the motor starts about halfway through part two.

You have to wonder given the size of this ancient reef and it’s proximity to Melbourne why no one noticed it before.

This is different. Scientists discover a way to turn recycled plastic bottles into a more valuable type of plastic.

I had a macro lens I built for my old camera but unfortunately it doesn’t fit on my new one. Here is a nice collection of macro photos.

Staying with the photo theme, here are some beautiful pictures from Scotland.

Also, here are some funny photos taken from just the right angle.

And finally, here is your funny animal picture. This one is a little sexier than usual and although it doesn’t really show anything, it may not be appropriate if you are at work.


Friday, September 19th, 2008

Hello On-liners

I’m beginning the long overdue process of painting my living room. I watched Iron Man last night and I could sure use one of those exoskeletons. Grabbing a large speaker I hadn’t lifted in years, I wondered if I could still lift it. It was up high and once I started there was no going back. Luckily it didn’t flatten me. Why doesn’t someone invent wall paper that just peels off and has another layer underneath? So instead of painting you just peel off the dirty sheet to reveal a clean one. You could have fresh walls in minutes without having to move everything.

Our house is pretty small so having to do without our largest room even for a short time is pretty painful. I guess one thing I like is now I have the computer I use for blogging next to the one I use for rendering so it’s easier to post while I have the other one making pictures. Check out these computer generated pictures by 33 different artists.

I have a picture in the 2D art section where I created a 2D fractal and then reflected it on a 3D object.  I’ve thought about this issue before; how would you create a true 3D fractal?

I’ve linked to musical roads before. The idea is you put a pattern of grooves in the road so they play a tune as you drive over them. I’ve always thought the ones they have on the side of the road, which my wife calls slumber bumps, should say “Wake Up!”

These cloud pictures reminded me of one time when we had a bunch of Mammatus clouds. Some of the others are very cool and scary.

Here are some interesting and very innovative photographic techniques.

Speaking of clever pictures, here is one I like.

Oh my, scroll down to the section on reproduction. I sure wouldn’t want to be an Anglerfish.

With all the political news, I keep seeing a lot of studies on why people vote the way they do in the science sites. Do conservatives scare more easily than liberals?

I’ve written about Bisphenol A before. Here is how to avoid eating it.

And finally, check out this collection of tiny animals.

Politics vs Logic

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

I got up this morning and as usual, sat down with a cup of coffee to read the news on the internet. I don’t know why I start my day this way. The news is always bad and it often makes me angry. Once again the government is bailing out another private financial institution to the tune of 85 billion dollars. I’ve had a number of businesses and the government never helped me out. In fact, when I was doing well and trying to grow they just taxed the hell out of me. Then there was the political wrangling of the story by both parties. My degrees are in physics, chemistry, and computer science, all tied strongly to experimental verification and logic. I often ask myself why politics is so illogical. I mean, it seems social policies, tax laws, and so forth could be subjected to experimentation and people on both sides could surely see what works and what does not. We could examine policies in other countries and takes what works from them. That is absolutely never going to happen and I think I’m beginning to understand why.

This article by Psychologist Jonathan Haidt is titled “What Makes People Vote Republican?” but it could just as well be titled “What makes People vote Democratic?” I found it a pretty fascinating read and also an explanation for why politics is the way it is and why it will never change. Then I found this video he did at TED Talks. It does contain some adult language. It is insightful and at times very humorous. It also presents some ideas on how it might be possible for people to work together for the greater good.

Also if you wonder why there is so much misinformation and lying in the political process, it’s because it pays off. If you read quotes from this article on left leaning websites you would only find the stuff towards the bottom but if you read the article in full you see both sides will believe things even after they have been refuted. There is no hope for the “truth” therefore no possibility of logic.

If you read the article by Jonathan Haidt and or watched the video, you are on my team. You know, my side, my tribe. I don’t mean Democrat or Republican, I mean you are just like me, you get online. What ever you think of Senator McCain, you have to think it’s odd he doesn’t use the internet because you do, or you wouldn’t be reading this now. Now you might be young and just think it’s that age group but my parents are considerably older and they are avid users of the web, email, and using a printer to produce my Mom’s artwork. Their friends are too. I have to admit I was unsure what to expect when my nephew gave them an old computer. I guess I was expecting to have to do a lot of support but they learned very quickly and were quite capable of finding solutions on their own. I have to admit it was a bit of a shock the first time my mother used the word Jpeg in a sentence.

On the other hand, click this.

Don’t believe for a second I’m going to get people to come to my site based on the above intellectual observations.  Here are some really hot pictures of Jessica Alba.

And we have alien speech found in a NASA radio signal.

And yes, I do have an explanation. If you start frequency shifting audio you can make a lot of things sound like very different things.

If that wasn’t strange enough for you, check out the Mongolian Death Worm.

That’s it from me today. Here are your cute animal pictures.

Ball Lightning

Monday, September 15th, 2008

I read a post today about generating power from ball lightning. I tracked down the site belonging to Dr. Kiril Chukanov here. Dr. Chukanov claims to have developed Quantum Free Energy generators capable of generating clean energy without fuel. There are some interview videos at the site but his accent is pretty heavy so it can be hard to follow at times.

It seems like I saw a movie or TV show recently where someone wanted to fire a gun in space and they ended up putting it in something so it would shoot. Turns out you don’t need oxygen to fire a gun in space.

This is just strange. It’s an article you might expect in the Enquirer but it’s from the Discovery Channel and it is about a girl with X-ray eyes.

Here is a pretty nice animation of how the Large Hadron Collider works.

Speaking of the LHC they are having a contest to give it a better name. I don’t suppose they would go for ‘Smash-o-matic’?

Binaural recording isn’t just using two microphones. It actually models the human head and ears. It’s pretty amazing to hear when you are used to just stereo. Here is an interesting demonstration.

Check out these dramatic pictures of tornadoes. We had the remains of hurricane Ike pass over us yesterday. When the house was creaking and you could hear debris hitting it, you just can’t believe some people would attempt to ride out the real thing.

From the violent to the serene, here is a nice collection of photos of reflections.

This was kind of funny. Someone used photo editing to just remove some elements from different scenes.

No photo editing here. I was just pleased on how our garden has done this year so I took a picture of what I harvested in one day.

A Nice Harvest

A Nice Harvest

I was joking my old van would make a nice tree house if you could get it up in a tree. These guys made a deer stand out of a trailer.

And finally, who would have thought hedge hogs could be so cute?


Thursday, September 11th, 2008

“Is it a toy car?” he asked. It was a reasonable question. The guy responsible for selling us an extended warranty for our new car had just asked us how many miles a year we would be driving it. I told him probably less than 9000 miles a year. We just don’t drive much. So the idea of buying a brand new car was probably not practical. On a typical day it just sits in the driveway depreciating. How we got there was a long process.

It started when my wife was going to Denver for training. We owned two old Chevys. They were both 1991 models which had gotten to the point where they weren’t very dependable. I had discovered by accident one day the door keys would open either one of them. My van had over 235,000 miles on it. I wanted something dependable to drive while I went car shopping and decided to rent one. I called Enterprise and explained to Travis I needed something with a lot of legroom. I had met Travis before when my wife rented a car and I knew he was not as tall as I am but still a fairly tall guy. He set me up with a 2008 Chevy HHR.

It turns out my problem with cars is not so much legroom as it is the distance between my knee and the steering wheel when my foot is on the brake. Really, it’s when I move to the brake because if my knee hits the steering wheel on the way it could prevent me from stopping quickly. We were looking for a car I could fit in, we could afford, and something which got reasonable gas mileage.

I must have tried on 50 cars. The Scion, a really boxy looking vehicle, has a lot of leg room on paper but I only had to sit in one for a second to realize I couldn’t drive it. I even sat in a Pontiac with a telescoping steering wheel and adjustable pedals only to realize it was designed to accommodate shorter drivers not taller ones. Sometime in the last 17 years that extra couple inches I needed had been designed out of pretty much every vehicle out there. There was one exception. I fit quite comfortably in a Nissan Maxima that had a telescoping steering wheel which moved well away from my knee. The problem was it had a lot of miles on it and was expensive, about $20,000.

At that point, we began to focus on the Chevy HHR. We looked at a 2006 in a nearby town. The salesman offered us a good price on it. In hindsight, we probably should have just gone for it. It had a few dings and a rather strange orange stain on the carpet. 2006 was the first year the HHRs were manufactured. Starting the following year Chevrolet upped the drive train warranty from 60 thousand to 100 thousand miles. I had replaced the transmission on my van but it was well over 100 thousand miles so it really wasn’t much of a gamble for Chevy to do that.

One thing I was interested in was the enhanced safety package. HHRs come with just about everything standard. Air conditioning, power windows and locks, most of the things that used to be optional come with it. We drove a good distance to look at a 2007 which had the side and curtain air bags just to find out it had been sold the night before. I think the turning point came when we looked at a 2008 with 18,000 miles on it. After taking it for a test drive and waiting through the whole sales process the guy offered us $250 off the price listed on the internet about $18,000. At that point we decided to see how much a brand new one would cost.

It turns out because my wife works for a GM supplier, we get a discount. Currently GM is now offering everyone GM worker prices which would have been a little cheaper. One thing about it is it is like buying at Carmax where there is no negotiating. They just take the price of the car and knock it down a prescribed amount. HHRs are not very expensive to begin with.

Chevy HHR under $20,000

Chevy HHR under $20,000

I thought because we were buying a new one, it would be relatively easy to get one with only the options we wanted. Not so, because it is the end of the model year there aren’t that many out there. You may have heard Chevy is having a hard time selling cars but it turns out this particular one is enormously popular. Chevy calls it an SUV but it gets pretty good mileage. The E.P.A. rates the car at 20 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway. I’ve been driving one for about two months now and my average mileage is 28 mpg but I tend to drive like a little old lady because I’m used to my van.

We went to a local dealership where we met a woman named Lane Kessel. Lane spent days trying to locate a HHR with the options we wanted. The HHR comes in a panel model, a turbo charged model, and an LS or LT trim. We had been looking at LTs. The main difference between an LT and LS is the power seat and the radio. There was some debate as to whether the manual seat might go back an extra inch or so due to the lack of a motor. I wanted the airbags. Actually because of my height, the airbags would probably injure me more than help me from what I have read but I wanted them for my wife.

The interior

The interior

One thing I liked about Lane besides the fact she spent so much time trying to find us the vehicle we wanted was she had a degree in chemical engineering. At my age, being stuck in the mid-west with a lot of technical college degrees, I probably should sell cars too. After about a week Lane found one 250 miles away which was close to the car we wanted.

One thing I found amusing was there is a salesman at that dealership named Max Price. The head of the repair department is named David Banner so even though I laughed, I refrained from making any Incredible Hulk jokes. I’m sure he has heard them all.

Most of you are probably driving cars built this century so a lot of the things I find odd about it you are probably used to. It locks and unlocks my doors for me and turns on the headlights. The radio stays on when you turn off the car and you can use the windows until you open the door. I guess the one thing I would really like it to do for me is drive.

The HHR we ended up buying had a number of options I probably wouldn’t have bothered with but the rebates pretty much covered the cost of them. It has the chrome trim package and running boards. They do enhance the look but I joked my van has the chrome trim, it wasn’t an option, that’s just the way they built them back then. The car has a retro look and I suppose the chrome and running boards go with that.

One of the things I do when people look at the car is start it with the remote. Chevy has really learned from competing with the Japanese to not offer too many variations on the cars to save cost. If you get an automatic transmission the remote start comes with it. Actually I did consider a Honda or a Toyota but aside from the fact I couldn’t fit in them, they are considerably more expensive. The HHR gets good mileage, offers more room, seems really solid, and doesn’t cost much. They also seem to hold their value as used ones were not that cheap.

OnStar built into the mirror

OnStar built into the mirror

The car comes with OnStar so it has its own phone number. It Emails me once a month to tell me how it’s doing. One thing I don’t like about the OnStar is they put it at the bottom of the rear view mirror. I normally have raised the rear view mirror on my cars so it doesn’t block my view to the right. With the wiring for the compass and OnStar I can’t do this on this car. They could have put it on the top of the mirror and I don’t think it would have bothered shorter drivers. Using the phone is a little odd because you feel like you are talking to your radio. The car also has rather wide window pillars. They also block your view to the sides.

The HHR has wide window pillars

The HHR has wide window pillars

The information display in the car tells you the instantaneous mileage, average mileage, tire pressure, oil life, coolant temperature, outside temperature, and has a couple trip meters. I used to have a car with a trip computer and I get a kick when I’m coasting and it says I’m getting 99 mpg. That’s one thing about driving it I’m still getting used to. When you take your foot off the gas it just goes and goes. I have to learn to start coasting a lot farther back when I have to stop.

The storage space in the HHR

The storage space in the HHR

The car is somewhat versatile. You can fold down the back seats. We have taken it camping and after having a van it seems small. We got the roof rails so I need to get a car top carrier for it.

A strange icon

A strange icon

I found this icon in the back. Having designed a lot of icons in my time, I know it’s difficult but if this was on a boat, it would mean something completely different.

It’s a nice car and it’s nice to drive something new. I miss my old van though. I really thought it would make it to a quarter million miles.

Oh, and here is your funny cat picture. It’s my Maggie who passed away in the spring a year ago.

Life in the gutter isnt so bad

Life in the gutter isn't so bad

New Image in the 3D Section

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

I have added this image to the 3D art section.

White River Gardens #5

White River Gardens #5

Click on the image to see a larger size.

This one is a little hard to cross view but if you can see it, it has great depth.