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Thaw

February 10th, 2009

We are finally getting a nice break from winter here in the Midwest. It’s funny how just not having to bundle up or watch your footing can seem so nice.

We spent part of the weekend playing this physics game called Perfect Balance. I can’t say I cared much for the sound track so I just turned off the audio but it was a good example of how a simple balancing game can get your puzzle solving skills fired up. We also played a game at the BBC called CDX. It’s the second game we have played from the BBC and in both cases they were terribly disappointing. It’s painful to see a game with a lot of professional video production but such terrible game play.

Speaking of the Brits, the following interview is actually from Australia and it’s a real interview but if you have ever seen Monty Python you’d swear it was one of their skits.

I have Matt to thank for that little gem; he also sent me this rather amazing video of dolphins.

Last week I created my first hand draw animation in years. I can’t say it was very good. It was just a stick figure walking and I’m just trying to learn some tools. While searching the web for animation resources I ran across this page on claymation. Most of what it says is pretty obvious but one of the tricks it mentioned was putting magnets in the feet of the characters and placing them on a cookie sheet. Years ago when we did a very short claymation, we did have problems with the characters falling over and that would have helped.

Speaking of stop action, here is a simple stop action video done by a couple kids.

I got a laugh out of this.

This is another one of those street painting perspective illusions. This one is of a glacial type ice age scene. I wonder how large the painting was.

Ever wonder how cats purr? Skip down towards the bottom for the simpler explanation.

I have seen fractal zooms before. This one is just a lot longer than most.

Darpa is funding a project to reverse engineer the brain.

A company called Jovion Corporation has been issue a patent for a zero point energy device. I’m a little skeptical useful energy can be extracted from the Casimir effect but I hope the thing works.

The RepRap 3D printer can finally make a copy of itself!

Here are some pretty cool pictures of an Alaskan ice festival.

If I saw one of these crossing the road, I would definitely stop.

I have seen pictures of these monkeys in a hot spring before. I think this is in Japan.

This is a funny bear cub shot.

Here is a cute story about a hot koala.

And finally, here are some very cute pictures of a kitten and a bird.

Installation Issues

February 3rd, 2009

I’d probably not purchased a new computer except my parents were having trouble with the one they had. Don’t get me wrong, my new one is going to be awesome but right now I don’t have many apps installed. Some time back my Dad mentioned their computer was emitting a strange smell. In retrospect I suppose that was the first indication their power supply was going. Last week I finally got around to setting up one of my systems for them. After resolving some strange disk issue I finally got their old system to boot but it wouldn’t stay on long enough to back it up. I wasn’t able to follow the recommended procedure on moving their old drive. I considered replacing the power supply but decided to just move their drive and do a repair install. That’s when things got tricky. You know you are in trouble when you google the problem you are having and other people have had that problem but no one seems to have solved it. After spending 3 days doing something that should have taken an afternoon, I gave them their new system last night. The system seemed to  be running OK but I suspect skipping over some of the installation files because Windows couldn’t read them is going to come back to haunt me.  I’m looking forward to working with computers this week as opposed to working on them.

This is one of those pictures where you wonder what happened right after it was taken.

I got a laugh out of this story of a cake gone wrong.

This story about places having names that well, you would be glad you are not from might offend some people. If you are in the mood for some juvenile snickering about naughty words click here.

Some of these entries in a Photoshop contest about you are what you eat are pretty good.

Speaking of image editing done well, I liked this one.

When our van was running we used to take it camping. We would set up a gazebo outside the side doors for extra living space. Since we used to backpack a lot it didn’t seem like we were roughing it much. When we would walk around campgrounds, I would look at those big trailers with the expanding rooms and think it would be cool to make something van sized that became really large once you got where you were going. Well this thing is truck sized but it expands into a two story structure.

I have seen pictures of these Margay Tiger Cats before. There is something so strange about the way they look.

Here is another silly cat picture, and more cute cat pictures are here.

Speaking of silly animal pictures, here is a collection of animals drinking. It kind of makes you think twice about using an outdoor water fountain.

It’s funny how sometimes animals really look like they are smiling.

I have been trying to learn Flash and rewrite a small game I created years ago. This is the home page of a design company who created the Samorost series. We played their Questionaut game the other day. It’s a cute little point and click game for kids where you have to answer questions to complete the game. In spite of my education I got a little careless and missed one or two.

It’s interesting how the interest in casual games has grown so much lately.

If you have never seen the TV series Dr. Who, there is no point in clicking here.

Here is another very cool lenticular cloud photo.

This photo of what I think are salt piles seems surreal.

Bad dog! Bad dog!

So you think you have a lot of snow?

When I took my first computer graphics course, the professor hung our assignments up outside the classroom. I had created a picture of a simple but  impossible (MC Escher style) crate.  It was fun to watch the expression on the faces of the people change when they ‘got it’. Some of these what would happen if everyday objects were designed by MC Escher pictures require a little study before you see it.

These are the most elaborate watermelon carvings I have ever seen.

This guy is planning to cross the Atlantic in a one-man pedal powered submarine.

And finally, if you enjoy cute animal pictures it doesn’t get much better than this.

The Lost Week

January 23rd, 2009

After putting together my computer this week I was left with the decision whether to update my old drive or do a clean install and set it up from scratch. I chose the latter and what a pain it has been. You just want to sit down with your shiny new hardware and do something but instead it’s an endless series of installs and reboots. On top of that, the connector on my old keyboard got loose I had to replace it. This is the first time I have tried to type very much on my new one and it’s going to take getting used to.

Last week someone left a comment asking if I had tried the Nick Bounty games at Pinhead Games. Saturday we spent a lot of time doing things like dealing with frozen water pipes. Luckily they weren’t damaged. So it was nice to kick back on Sunday and play some games. The Nick Bounty series are classic adventure games with full voice acting and the look, talk, get, etc. verb set. One thing I was reminded of when playing them was although choosing a verb as opposed to just clicking on an object is more work, in the old adventure games as well as these, adding the extra step provides a way to inject more (often silly) humor into them. The plot lines were pretty silly too but that is the point to playing them I suppose. I did laugh at some of the jokes and there is a pretty funny scene in the second game where everything is dark and the voice actor describes an outrageous scene to you.

I’ve been writing this blog long enough I have gotten to the point where it is hard to remember whether I have already mentioned something or not. I guess if it’s a good thing it’s worth mentioning again. That’s the way I felt about this video of people doing maintenance on high voltage cables. I suppose you probably get used to it but there’s no way I would get out there.

I know I’ve mentioned this alloy before, I’m pretty sure I linked to this video. It’s also known as muscle wire because it is not only a shape-memory alloy but it also shrinks when heated so you can make things move by running current through it.


More Science experiments at 5min.com

Check out these awesome ice storm photos.

Speaking of winter, that’s a lot of snow!

Last night we watched Resident Evil- Degeneration. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the other Resident Evil films but I wanted to see it because it is computer generated. It’s funny how not-quite-real computer generated people look creepy. This article at New Scientist talks about that and how machines are coming closer to people in other ways like talking and playing music.

According to this article the next group of people to be put out of jobs by technology will be call center workers.

I thought this was kind of interesting; this guy was an expert at putting things in bottles.

If you’re not a programmer you probably have never heard the phrase “That’s not a bug, it’s a feature“.

It’s kind of fuzzy but this is what meteors look like from space.

This is what a hermit crab in a glass shell looks like.

Here are some long time exposure photos. The one of the fireworks is particularly cool.

If you are prone to seizures you probably don’t want to follow this link. Here are more examples of what I call wiggle vision 3D photos. The author calls them lenticulations. It kind of makes my head hurt to look at them. I thought the one of the dog (14) was the best one.

I suppose you could call lenticular clouds lenticulations. This one looks a lot less like a UFO than others I’ve seen.

How would you like to live in a house made of paper that costs 5000 dollars? By the way, 36 square meters is 387.5 square feet.

Here are some large computer generated fantasy landscapes.

This is a pretty cool picture of a drop of seawater and what is inside.

I thought this was kind of funny. A bank made a mistake and deposited a bunch of money in a couple’s account. They claimed they didn’t notice. This actually happened to a friend of mine, but he was smart enough not to try to keep it.

This is just a nice sunset picture.

My fingers hurt from this new keyboard. Here is your funny animal picture of happy seals.

New Hardware

January 15th, 2009

I haven’t been posting this week because I needed to buy the parts for a new computer. This is probably the longest I have ever gone without replacing one. Except for 3D rendering, the machines I have are fast enough for everything I do. I found I was out of touch with what has been going on in hardware and had to do some studying including a search on a number of terms to find out what they mean. The parts are on their way and next week I should be able to put it together. It should be blindingly fast compared to my old hardware. We’ll see.

Last I checked it had climbed up to a warm -4 degrees F out there today. I’m not sure I even want to step out for the mail. It’s probably just junk mail anyway. This site starts out with snowflake pictures but for a real treat, scroll down to the frost and ice images.

Here is another photo of a ship encased in ice.

I didn’t realize large circular disks of spinning ice would form in rivers.

Here is yet another cool ice photo.

Brrrr, after that I had to throw in a picture of someplace warm.

And now really hot; check out this image of a truck out running a volcanic blast.

I mentioned Megan Fox once a long time ago in one post, yet she shows up as the top search string in my stats for my blog month after month. This is for the Megan Fox fans out there.

It’s a little heavy on the science but this article entitled “Our world may be a giant hologram” is a pretty interesting read. I guess it wouldn’t surprise me if space-time was quantized, everything else is.

If it hurt your head to read that last link, take a moment to gaze at this cute shot of a mouse riding on the back of a frog.

This past Christmas I was trying to teach my nephew to juggle and realized I hadn’t done it for long enough I needed practice. When my friend Matt sends me a link and tells me to turn up my speakers I’m naturally a little cautious after some of the links he has sent me around Halloween. The following video is pretty good example of someone juggling to music. Definitely turn up your speakers.

While I’m writing I’m listening to NASA TV. There was an announcement today they found methane on Mars which may be being generated by some sort of life.

When I realized a virus was basically a chemical that could take over a cell, the line between what is alive and not seemed to blur for me. This article show that the difference between what is alive and what is chemistry can be very subtle.

Speaking of odd life forms, here are some very strange creatures, and more strange creatures.

This cat has an interesting way of using the stairs.

Check out this slo-mo video of a water drop hitting fine sand.

I got a laugh out of this.
fail owned pwned pictures

These images of ‘light pillars‘ are both strange and beautiful.

That is one big cat!

This is one elaborate cake!

This is a crazy staircase!

This video of a UFO would be fairly easy to fake but if it’s real, it’s pretty amazing.

Here is another funny sign.

If you read my blog, you know I end with some cute animal pictures. Since I haven’t posted in a while, I have a few for you. Here are squirrels, bears, and sleepy animals.

Germs

January 7th, 2009

I’ve been fighting a cold this week. As colds go it’s not a particularly bad one. It is enough to make it difficult to think and write though so forgive me if this post is particularly rambling. I do have some good stuff to share with you. If you have read my blog before you know I’m no fan of antibacterial soap because it’s bad for the environment and doesn’t work better than regular soap. I didn’t realize regular soap doesn’t kill germs it just helps rinse them off you hands. This list of 10 germ myths also has some other interesting facts. I tend to keep two sponges for washing dishes. I alternate them letting one dry out but maybe I should microwave them.

I’m not sure I have ever seen ice form in ribbons. The link at the bottom goes to some interesting photos too.

Today would probably be a good day to blow bubbles and watch them freeze. On the other hand, it’s really windy out there.

Check out these cool cloud pictures.

For some reason these spectacular pictures of winter’s beauty don’t change the fact I wish it were summer.

Here is one more cool winter shot of a train blasting through snow.

As the new year came in there were lots of top ‘whatever’ lists on the internet. I liked this one. The best 50 astronomy pictures of 2008.

If that didn’t make you feel small, the following video shows the size of the largest star compared with our sun.

This is an example of what a talented carver can do with a watermelon.

Dolphins in Australia use sponges to protect their noses while poking around on the sea floor. It’s interesting only the females do it. Maybe the males don’t want to look wimpy.

This is a video of an aluminum block falling over very slowly in very strong magnetic field.

Here is an explanation for why that happens.

These are some nice pictures of birds (and a clever cat) fishing.

And finally, if giraffes weren’t vegetarian this picture would have a very different meaning.

Adventure Games

January 5th, 2009

After all the rushing around for the holidays, it was nice to spend a weekend just kicking back. This past weekend that meant searching the internet for adventure games or what some call point and click games. There’s nothing wrong with shooting aliens or zombies but the fun thing about adventure type games is you can solve them together. Finding a decent one on the internet can be difficult. It’s not that there aren’t many out there, it’s that you have to wade through so much garbage to find a gem.

I found it interesting my friend Matt coincidentally sent me this article on user interfaces this morning. When you think about it, games are pure user interfaces. I mean, you aren’t actually trying to get any work done. One thing about a lot of games out there is when you are playing you don’t see a menu on the screen. I have a paint program I wrote years ago I still use because I like the interface better than most. Photoshop was originally developed on a Macintosh. In my paint program, when you are painting, you don’t see menus on the screen, when you want a menu, you use the right mouse button. Since the Macintosh had only one mouse button I suppose that wasn’t an option. After Microsoft dominated the market, always having something on the screen unrelated to what you are doing became the norm anyway. I suppose the one place that seems to be coming back is the full screen mode of a lot of TV viewing applications.

That’s one thing about Adobe Flash games that is semi-annoying to me. If you click the right mouse button you get a Flash menu which is usually useless in terms of the game you are playing. Consequently they have eliminated half the functionality of the mouse in terms of the game play.

We did find several games worth playing.  Something Amiss is a classic style adventure complete with an inventory where you have to find and gather up objects you use to solve logic puzzles. We have only made it through the first two chapters but this is the kind of game I don’t really like to play unless I find a walkthrough. The reason is, I don’t really like the fact you have to go back nine screens or so because you didn’t pick up something you failed to see. One of the highly important decisions you have to make in these types of games is whether the user will see the main character on the screen or whether it is all first person point of view. In this case they chose to make the character visible in a comic book artistic style but often, when she is interacting with objects, you don’t see them or the movement is off. Also I thought the concept of holding down the mouse to get a tiny menu where you can talk to, ingest or manipulate an object was an interesting one. It just seemed like that would have been a good functionality for a right mouse button.

In Tipping Point the author decided to forgo seeing the main character thus freeing up his time to work on the detail of the scenery which can be quite beautiful at times. We did occasionally have to use the included walkthrough on this one as well. Some of the puzzles are pretty obscure. I can’t say I care much for mazes although they are often present in these types of games.  There was a cave maze in this one we couldn’t solve even once we had figured out what to do.  One of the things I like about this style is when you decide to move to the next screen you don’t have to wait for your on-screen character to walk somewhere. Also the author divided the game up so there are only a small number of screens in each part so you won’t have to backtrack far if you missed something.

Levers isn’t a big game. I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as an adventure game but more of a physics simulator logic puzzle. It’s still kind of fun. I could never get past the giant head. I thought the birds were an interesting touch.

By far the most enjoyable games we played this weekend were Haluz 1 and 2. The games are very similar to Samorost 1 and Samorost 2. The reason is the pure simplicity of the concept. Yeah, the plots are thin but they have really stripped the adventure game concept down to its basics. There is no inventory of items which need to be gathered and you don’t ever have to navigate your character. I know these seem like the characteristics which define the genre of adventure gaming, but you know leaving those elements out actually makes the game more fun. All four of these games feature quirky characters with odd machinery. There is something appealing about the fact that everything you need to do to solve the puzzle is on the screen and you don’t need to go looking elsewhere for the solution. We did get stuck and had to use a walkthrough for Haluz 1 but I don’t know if the puzzles were easier or we just got ‘trained’ by the game author but we made it through Haluz 2 which is a much longer game without having to resort to looking up any solutions. Also I really liked the organic quality of the artwork in the game. When I first saw it I thought it might have been written by the same people who wrote Samorost.

All of the games I have mentioned here are worth checking out and the best part is they are all free.

Technology

December 29th, 2008

I think it’s somewhat ironic humans could create a bomb that operated using fusion in 1952 but to use it to generate power always seems to be 20 years away. There are so many methods, normally very high tech to attempt to fuse light elements; I was pleasantly surprised when I read this article. From the article “Somebody described it as a thermonuclear diesel engine,” but actually I would call it a thermonuclear steam engine. What an amazingly low tech approach to the problem! The other thing is these guys are talking about producing clean cheap power for a paltry $50 million. That’s million not billion. Compare that to the type of money the government is currently throwing around in the financial markets!

Not that there aren’t people making progress or at least doing experiments with more sophisticated technology. I just think the contrast is pretty amazing when you compare the methods being used in the above approach with this experiment.

Speaking of technology, this is a chart of the difference between how casino machines and electronic voting machines are regulated. I think the chart speaks for itself.

This looks very low tech.

This is a great use of low technology. A professor has produced a set of eyeglasses for the world’s poor. They use water pressure to adjust the thickness of the lenses.

It seems like one of the side effects of technology is it gets easier and easier for someone to get you in trouble for something you did not do. In this link, a group of college students reproduce the license plate of someone they have a grudge against. They tape the plate over their own and drive fast through intersections with speed cameras.

This is kind of slick. If you want to download a youtube video to watch later, put the word kick before the address and there you go.

There isn’t much story accompanying this series of cat rescue pictures. I was left wondering how the cat got in there in the first place.

I’ve never seen a purple squirrel, I never hope to see one…

Speaking of strange creatures, at about 30 seconds into this video, the shark extends its jaws in a manner eerily similar to the alien in the movie of the same name.

What is up with this chicken?

This is just a nice bridge picture.

Here are some very cool nature pictures.

Pushing your face into powdery snow has to be cold, but the results can be very artistic.

And finally, I’m not sure if these are chipmunks or baby squirrels but it’s a cute picture.

It’s a Wonderful Life

December 17th, 2008

I’ve seen the movie It’s a Wonderful Life a zillion times. I happened to catch the second half of it the other day. In light of recent events, the film took on a whole different meaning. I sat there giggling at the irony. Here is the film online. Today George Bailey would sell balloon mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them and package the loans as derivatives. Instead of $8000, it would be a trillion dollar bailout.  Bank examiners, what a quaint idea! Here is the movie in thirty seconds done by animated bunnies.

If you are not familiar with the Antikythera mechanism, it was a device of astounding technology for it’s time. You have to wonder how it was possible for the technology to disappear. Not just the technology of the way the device worked but the ability to build it. It took over a thousand years before similar gear technology appeared again.  I can’t help but think if it wasn’t lost in time we would be living like the Jetson’s now. This article has some interesting background on the device. Below is a video of a recreation of it and how it worked.

I’m not sure how much faith I have in this story but maybe they invented Swiss watches a lot earlier too. There is nothing like finding one in a 400 year old tomb. It must have been a careless time traveler!

Have you had enough? Check out these stories of eight metal objects. At least the other ‘finds’ were dated to a time when humans were around. These reminded me of a sci-fi story where they would send prisoners back in time so far they wouldn’t be able to influence the future.

I tend to step outside for a minute before I write to clear my head. We got some freezing rain last night. Not enough to damage things and not enough to make it pretty, just enough on top of a small layer of snow to make a really large crunching sound when you walk.  Here is why even looking at this lovely nature picture could improve your memory and attention. Here is another nice nature shot and here are some real ice storm photos.

Besides the sliding track I use to create 3D pictures I wrote about here, I’ve also built a macro lens but I need to redo it to fit my digital camera. Here are some pretty nice do-it-yourself photography tools. I should try the Pringles can tube for my macro.  They mention using a scanner which is how I produced this image. The resulting image is so large, I have yet to see it printed at full resolution. Some day I’d like to see an eight foot tall print of it.

You have to love a silly dog photo.

If you are at work, this next bit contains an image of a woman in a seriously small bikini. It’s some cool gadgets for winter fun. We didn’t have snowball guns when I was a kid.

Prepare to be grossed out in this fascinating look at zombie animals and the parasites that control them.

I have been following the story of Blacklight power for some time now. I’m becoming convinced these people have found a way to generate power in a way that violates the laws of physics as we know them. They have a theory but personally I don’t think it’s correct. Here is some recent news about them. Ha! Maybe it works but it has the side effect of sending metal objects back in time.

Remember Teddy Ruxpin? Check out this robot teddy. The video is not very good. There is something really bizarre about seeing it with its skin off. I’m just waiting for it to grab a gun and start looking for Sarah Conner.

As you watch this video where guys put the equivalent of giant caps on the ends of hammers and slam them into the ground, you have to think, what could possibly go wrong?

And finally, here is your funny cat photo.

Dream Machine

December 11th, 2008

I read this article about scientists developing a machine that can produce images from your dreams with some skepticism. I guess it’s one of those things you would have to experience to believe. I had the thought if they could do that then why couldn’t they make a machine that allows you to render an image and all you have to do is imagine it.

The biggest full moon of the year occurs on Dec. 12th.

A Dyson sphere is where an advanced civilization has built a sphere completely encompassing a star to optimize solar energy collection. This article is about trying to detect them. If a civilization were advanced enough to actually build one of those things, they might also have the technology to keep even low level infrared energy from escaping.

I posted some wallpaper sources recently. Here is another one which is mostly holiday pet pictures. Then again I can’t read anything there so maybe that is just a section.

As if dressing up your poor animal isn’t bad enough, these people actually painted their cats. I wonder what type of paint you would use given the first thing they would do is try to clean themselves off.

I got a chuckle out of this story about a real life cat burglar who steals fuzzy toys from the neighbors. It reminded me of one a while back where a cat collected gloves and mittens.

This is another one of those collections of fantasy sci-fi like creations.

This is a pretty funny shot.

This one’s just pretty.

I’ve never actually seen lenticular clouds, just pictures. Then again I haven’t spent much time near any large mountains.

And finally, here is a collection of photos of cats sleeping in unusual places.

Wallpapers and Other Pictures

December 9th, 2008

Every year I design a new holiday card. Some of them are in my galleries. Usually I try to do something in 3D. Last year I didn’t and at least one person mentioned they were disappointed. Here it is getting well into the month and I’m struggling with coming up with a concept. So, I have been looking at a lot of images on the web.

This site has a lot of nice desktop wallpapers. A lot of the recent ones are holiday oriented.

Also, a friend of mine sent me this link to another site that has a lot of free wallpapers.

Here is a nice gallery of snowflake pictures. There is also a chart at the end explaining what type of flakes form under what conditions.

These are just nice creative photos.

Then there is the opposite. From images which are not photoshopped to some that are extremely photoshopped.

These are just being in the right spot at the right moment.

This one is just funny.

Check out this giant storm.

This is a cool shot of the space shuttle lifting off.

Here are some funny tee shirt illustrations.

And finally, yeah you guessed it, a bunch of cute animal pictures.