Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The fastest stupid car

This race gave me the giggles:

Found among a collection of unique vehicles.

Along with the truly awesome tank chair:

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Global Warming Shell Game

Warmer: "Oh noes! We're all gonna DIE unless we change our ways RIGHT NOW! I've got a study here, Study A, that conclusively proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt!"
Skeptic: "Where's the data behind that conclusion?"
W: "You don't need to see my data. You'd misuse it."
S: (whines about data access to the journal, the media, the funding agency)
W: (grudgingly) "Oh, all right. here's the data."
S: "Hey, it looks like you still left out some data, and your method is broken."
W: "No, I didn't, you industry shill. And there's nothing wrong with
my methods."
S: "I'm pretty sure you did, and there is."
W: "There's nothing wrong."
S: "Yes there is."
W: "No there isn't."
S: "Yes."
W: No."
(Skeptic finally convinces an independent expert panel to review the situation.)
EXPERT PANEL: "S is right. W didn't make his data or methods fully available and as far as we could figure out from what he DID make available, his methods are suspect and conclusions totally unreliable."
Warmer: "Okay, sure, even if there /were/ issues with /that/ study, that's an eight-year-old study! Science doesn't stand still, you know!
Even if there were teensy problems with the methodology, the essential conclusions are still correct and this has been proven CONCLUSIVELY by Studies B and C, that will be published this summer. So oh noes! We're all gonna DIE unless we change our ways RIGHT NOW! I've got PROOF!"
Skeptic: "Studies B and C seem like they have a lot of the same problems as A did."
W: "No they don't, you industry shill."
S: Yes they do!"
....and so on.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Weird Al is White and Nerdy

It's disturbing how many of the lyrics in this song apply to me and my friends.

(found here: nerdcore).

UPDATE: The video is out! Check it:

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Yarrr!

September 19th is international Talk Like a Pirate Day. If you feel linguistically underprepared, please consult this instructional video. That is all.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Newton's WHAT recognition?

Businessweek has a nice slideshow discussing the design work of Apple's Jonathan Ives. Click ahead to the third page to see this:
Apple Newton MessagePad 110, 1994

The Newton software became known for being far ahead of its time - and for disastrously mediocre voice-recognition software. But Ive won big points for the hardware design - and with his colleagues for his work ethic and refusal to compromise. He spent weeks in Taiwan with manufacturers and labored endlessly to match the hardware capabilities to the underlying software. As he was trying to master the 3D CAD tool used to create the blueprint, "he didn't sleep for like two weeks," recalls a colleague. "He had just insane attention to detail."

That's nice, but...wait a minute...voice recognition? You're slamming the Newton for mediocre voice recognition?

1994 didn't seem quite so long ago until I read that.

Me, I worked on a team that did handwriting recognition.

And BTW, that's not a 110. That picture shows an original MessagePad, later renamed the MessagePad 100. (the 110 was longer to accommodate a bigger battery area. It had a screen-protecting cover and used a telescoping metal stylus rather than the cheesy flat plastic one.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

All they want to do is eat your brains!

I just discovered songwriter Jonathan Coulton, who is excruciatingly funny. About him, Popular Science correctly writes:
Jonathan Coulton is a professional software writer and sometime recreational robot-builder who happens to be an extremely funny songwriter. His songs scan a vast, weird range of subjects with the sort of wit, edge and self- deprecation heard in vintage Loudon Wainwright III or They Might Be Giants, or in newer bands like Fountains of Wayne - but he's funnier than any of them.
Here are two of his best songs, which you can listen to while you read the lyrics - one is about a programming dweeb; the other is about those pesky zombies you might meet shuffling in or about the office on a bad day.
Re: Your brains
Code Monkey
(hat tip: pa)

Update: here's his myspace page.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Heading! Altitude! Arch! Reach! Touch!


Today I passed AFF (accelerated free fall) level one. That is: for the first time ever, I jumped out of a plane with a parachute of my very own (albeit with a couple of instructors alongside for moral and other support). Once the parachute was deployed, I navigated to a good landing spot and touched down. Wow!

Skydiving is much safer these days than in times past. One thing I learned in my 6-8 hours of instruction is that modern parachutes are equipped with something a lot like a car airbag - an automatic electronic safety mechanism. The CYPRES (Cybernetic Parachute Release System) AAD (automatic activation device) calculates your location and rate of fall. If you are still freefalling as the ground gets dangerously close, a small explosion fires a wedge to cut the loop to deploy the reserve chute. Novices have it set to go off at 1500 feet; experts might cut it closer at, say, 750 feet. The technology was introduced in 1991. It took a few years to work out the bugs but nowadays everybody uses it.

One thing I learned in my one minute of freefall is that I still don't know what the hell I'm doing up there. It's like learning to ski or unicycle: an entirely new set of physical skills involving grace and balance and coordination and knowing where to put all your limbs to avoid disaster. I felt a lot more comfortable after the chute opened. The landing phase was gentle, even graceful.

Bugs Bunny still said it best.

The iPod and the Bathtub

Frog Design has posted an interesting essay collection called Frog Design Mind. Here's a snippet from the one on design language:
So… as I was sitting on the toilet this morning (this is of course where most good ideas come from), I noticed the shiny white porcelain of the bathtub and the reflective chrome of the faucet on the wash basin ... and then it hit me! Everybody perceives the iPod as 'clean' because it references bathroom materials!
The picture is what really makes that observation work:

Performancing