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Archive for October, 2012

Interesting Facts

Friday, October 26th, 2012

I knew I was probably the last person on earth to sign up for facebook but the day after I did I saw a news article saying the one billionth person had signed up. It was probably me. Here is my link. Also here is the link to our page for Bash the Bankers. Hope I did that right as I am a total facebook noob. I closed comments on the blog a long time ago because I got tired of all the spam. I was thinking I would eventually put them back with a better spam filter but have never gotten to it. So at least you can comment on my FB page now.

If you are a regular reader and I imagine there are some from my stats, you know I normally finish up with a cute picture. Also since as one friend of mine put it “It’s so sciencey!” and another one recently said “I would describe your writing style as a high-tech Andy Rooney.” often the subjects I write about are well, not necessarily light reading. According to this, cute images make you sharper, perhaps I should put a cute picture at the beginning instead of the end of my blog.

Suddenly I’ve found myself with a little time on my hands and I’ve been thinking about starting some sort of project. I’ve written about the Raspberry Pi $25 ARM based computer before and thought about getting one to play with. Although it seems like an interesting platform to build some sort of sensor/controller, the more I read about it, it does seem kind of weak in terms of processing power. Yesterday I saw an article about this kickstarter project called Parallella where these people are trying to build an open source parallel computing platform. It’s $100 but it does look like it would be considerably more powerful. Yesterday it didn’t look like they were going to make  their goal but with 24 hours to go, today I noticed it might be close. I think they should have come up with a better name.

Speaking of open source,

The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) is a modular, DIY, low-cost, high-performance platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts.

There have been a lot of articles like this one about 3D printers lately and also the legal implications. I’ve always wanted to get a 3D printer but other than 3D art or maybe some odd connectors for some sort of PVC structure I want to build, I’m not sure what I would do with one. Unless of course I had one like this which is so large I could make furniture with it.

I mentioned I bought a graphics tablet recently and I’m really enjoying using it. Although it supports gestures like my iPhone and Android, I don’t use them that much. Occasionally my computer starts doing odd things and I realize my cat Kelly is leaning up against it. I like using the pressure sensitive pen though. Unfortunately my abilities to use a pen peaked when I was in college and spent most days trying to scribble down notes in a hurry which would actually be readable later on, or being bored in class and spent my time doodling.  When I built my first machine back in the 80’s all I could think about was how cool it would be to have some sort of sophisticated way of controlling it. This article from the BBC talks about the range of new technologies that will change the way you interface with machines.

Here is an interesting fact

Over 3 million people globally every month search for something online with the words interesting facts in it according to the most popular search engine.

I got that from this list of interesting facts. One of them I was already familiar with. If you want to bring a computer to it’s knees, try rendering a human head with 85,000 to 150,000 hairs.

And finally, something to make you say awww…


Monday, October 1st, 2012

So I’m picking up apples. The old tree, the centerpiece of my yard, had produced a small number of mature apples for the first time in a very long time. This was probably because I’d watered that side of the yard before they banned sprinkling this year. I decided to take a break. I sat down under the old apple tree, sweat sliding down my forehead. I looked down. The hose I had used to attempt to keep my plants from desiccating in the summer heat snaked through the grass in front of me. Upon it, ants weaved to and fro avoiding the long trek through the jungle of grass which would otherwise be their path. I had a moment where I considered the intelligence of these insects and their use of the hose as sort of a superhighway and then it hit me.

squirrel highway in the sky

No, it really hit me. An apple had dislodged from the tree. As if it had been guided by the most perfect aim of a human hand, it landed squarely on the crown of my head. I was stunned.  I saw stars.  Far from considering Newton’s laws, the first thought which crossed my mind was only an idiot would sit under an apple tree that was dropping apples.

I thought of this place. This is a view from Google maps. It’s not easy to tell what you are looking at. It’s a metal pipe. As I recall it was about six feet in diameter and at its highest point over the water it was about twenty feet down.

the pipe

It’s not far from the place I spent my “Harry Potter” years. My parents moved there when I was eleven and until I moved away for college I spend countless hours in the swamp surrounding this area. This shot was taken in the winter and it must have rained a lot. This image gives you no impression of how lush the swamp was. It was filled with marsh marigold and smelled of skunk cabbage. There were reeds that made perfect spears. Not the kind that would do damage but the kind young boys would spend hours hurling at each other because they might as well been made of Nerf. I must have crossed the pipe hundreds of times. At first it seemed scary. Measuring it now it appears to be at least 160 feet long. All I knew then was once you were about halfway it seemed like you were a long way from anything to hang onto. It’s funny how later on we used to run across it. There was probably a good 12 inch “path” on top where you could get good footing without sliding. I vaguely remember one of my crazy neighbors riding a bike across at one point. I only fell off of it once. It was a very windy day. I was leaning into it and then it suddenly stopped. I readjusted my balance only to feel another large blast and I realized I was going over. I landed on my feet though and had I not sunk a good foot into the muck I imagine I might not have walked away from the fall.

Looking at it on Google, there is a house in what used to big a large open field on the other side. In the early summer I can remember spending hours picking and eating small wild strawberries from one end of the field to the other. They were sweet and busting with flavor unlike the seedy tasteless variety that grow where I live now. Later it was in that field I experienced what I consider to be my first ‘real’ kiss.

I have an iPhone I used when we wrote our game but I also have a Samsung Galaxy S2 which I use as my phone. I find it surprising one of the things I enjoy about it the most is sitting outside this summer listening to audio books. Recently my wife and I were out in the back yard late in the evening listening to Ready Player One written by Ernest Cline and narrated by Wil Wheaton. In these times where everyone is so involved in copyright legal issues, it struck me how you could write a book like that and not have to worry about it but if you tried to make an actual implementation of the OASIS much less a movie of it, it would be nearly impossible. The book is completely full of references to copyrighted material.

Anyway, it got pretty cool out. I ran a long extension cord out into the yard and we plugged in some electric throws to keep warm. It got pretty dark. When we decided to go inside I picked up the extension cord and commented to my wife how cold and slimy it was. As we got up toward the garage and into the light I realized the extension cord was covered in slugs and my hands were covered in slug slime. The slugs had found the electric superhighway through my yard.

Oh, I almost forgot. Something to make you say awww…