Thursday, October 31, 2013

I'm useful!

Back in October of 2007 I wrote a post on gravitational lensing. While Googling myself the other day I found where someone had borrowed art that I drew for that post for their Powerpoint presentation on the same topic.

Here's the picture I drew
If you're really curious, you can look at the presentation here.

Ooh, look. I've also been referenced in a forum discussion on the subject.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Website workaround

I was sent an article from the New York Times only to find out that my free articles for the month had run out. I had heard about using Google Translator to get around firewalls (I'll be trying it at work today [Nope, the IT guys at this base are smarter than that]) so I figured it might work for this article. Sure enough, I could read the article without paying.

Here's how you do it. Go to Google Translator, feed the URL into the translation box, and hit "Translate". There you have the French (or whatever) version of the website. Now click View: Original and you have the normal version of the site.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

RIP Marcia Wallace

Marcia Wallace passed away Friday. Her's isn't a name most people would recognize, but her voice is. She played the voice of Edna Krabappel (Bart's teacher), the crazy cat lady, and other voices on The Simpsons. I also remember seeing her on The Bob Newhart Show (different from the show Newhart) as a kid. They plan to retire the character just like they did to Troy McClure after Phil Hartman died.

Depending on who you talk to, Marcia either died from complications due to pneumonia or complications due to returning breast cancer. Supposedly she was able to tell the show's producers that she had health issues. I'm hoping they gave her a chance to say goodbye.

Monday, October 28, 2013


I accidentally duplicated last Thursday's post. I must be more tired than I thought. Check back Tuesday.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Links: October 25

Pope says ideological Christians are a serious illness within the church. [link]
True, but we didn't think you knew, Popey. 

Jeeves and Weasley - Rupert Grint and Stephen Fry's unaired pilot.

Complete footage of Felix Baumgartner's Stratos jump.

Thorium reactor technology.

Game: Back to the Cuthboy 2 - You're stuck in ancient Athens and need to foil a plot to take over Athens and get your time machine back. [link]

6ft otters! [link]

Tea Party negotiations.

Wind up doggie.

Flying cardboard.

A Witch Hazel sculpture. Complete with hair pins on the ground. [link]

Your Toyota may have a spider problem. [link]

Batmobiles that never were. I like the van. [link]

Doctor Who coins. [link 1] [link 2]

The inventor of FM radio was driven to suicide by competitors. [link]

Austin professor to spend year living in a dumpster. [article] [blog]

Classic music insults. [link]

House stenographer cracks and charges the dais. [link]

The Army needs new uniforms... again. [link]

Texas finds a way to get rid of married women voters. [link]

Most popular girls names state-by-state by year for the last 6 decades. [link]

Automated quality coffee machine. [link]

The bystander effect goes away when there's a camera. [link]

Understand the Tea Party and the modern GOP as a whole. [link]
short version: They want the 70's back.

Street apes of Jakarta. [link]

Lincoln's favorite infographic. [link]

How dangerous are food colorings? [link]

Sentence traps. [link]
‘I’m not saying she deserved to be raped, but,’ and other ways to never start a sentence

The story of the girl that slimy lawyer in the previous article was talking about. [link]

Cities with the most air pollution in the world. [link]

Why I Left Medicine. [link]

How to fix math class. [link]

Creepy costumes. [link]

Painting chrome lettering lesson.

Run this off to the side while you do something else. It's kinda interesting to watch, but long and slow. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cat dwelling

Last night I made a dwelling for my local stray cats. The barrel was a rain barrel I made for the DC house. Since I'd cut a hole in the lid to let water in I wasn't going to be able to use it as a roof. So I flipped the barrel, made the hole bigger, and fit it over the bottom of the barrel to give the roof a bit of overhang and keep rain from coming in.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halloween preparations.

Some intestines I've made for Halloween. Insulation foam like you use to seal windows and spray paint.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lady Leatherneck

My bedroom is nearing completion. As I work on the last few bits I've started looking to see what's under the second sheet of linoleum. What I found is newspaper from 1945. Here's the front page. I think this needs framed.

Gandolf quote

Saturday night Gandolf asked me "What's your fuckin' problem?"

Perhaps I shouldn't be watching The Sopranos with her.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Links: October 18

A land mine detecting plant. [link]

Concrete arrows across America. [link]

Raven comes looking for help to get rid of porcupine quills. [link]

A brief history of mayo. [link]

The internet is proving to be a source of doubt for some Mormons. [link]

Drinking in Antarctica. [link]

Kirk Douglas, Kirk Douglas, and Kirk Douglas in a short animation.

Bungee jumping prank.

Rotating your tires in Saudi Arabia.

Weird Al's "Albuquerque" using clips from Breaking Bad.

Rules of the internet. [link]

Earth and Moon from Saturn. [link]

The vitamin myth OR The most right and wrong person in recent history. [link]

Demolishing Detroit. [link]

What stars different songs have reached. [link]

Moisture vaporator billboard. [link]

Koch brothers realize their own strategy is bad for their business. [link]

Game: Tiny Hack (best guess) - An absurdly low resolution adventure game. [link]

Retweeting peoples real world Obamacare experience. [link] [selections]

Renderings of the average man's figure by nationality. [link]

Best way to die in space. [link]

20 funny business names. [link]

The scientific consensus on GMO foods. [link]

Where woman are happy and secure pick-up artists don't work. [link]

This doesn't really explain the Higgs Boson, either. But it tries. [link]

Fusion that releases more energy than it takes in has finally been achieved. [link]

Isn't it a bit early for Best of 2013 articles? [link]

13 things wrong with Congress. [link]

Footage of a Grasshopper rocket test taken by a Hexacopter camera.

Banksy had an art sale but nobody knew it was him and not a knockoff.

I can never make clay act like this. [link]

Hard sci-fi stories. [link]

Deer with basketball in antlers. [link]

Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner have supper on TV trays every night and watch a movie. [link]

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pear tree - year 1

I planted a pear tree yesterday and put Gandolf in it. I'm hoping to make this picture an annual event to show how much it grows with Gandolf for scale.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Asimov world

One of the things that struck me about the universe that Isaac Asimov created was the economics of the different worlds. Colonized planets often had a dozen robots for every human being and the humans all lived like millionaires. Earth, on the other hand, had only a few robots and the people had to bust their butts. But this was by design. Earth had too many people. They couldn't figure out how to switch to an economy where people didn't have to work. To keep the jobs they outlawed most robots.

More and more this seems like a problem that we'll have to address soon. A properly built car factory can be run with only three people. Some already do. Those three people only needing to shut things down if the robots screw up. This story is common as manufacturing starts coming back to the United States. Few jobs come back with them.

It's conceivable that even fast food joints could go mostly automated. The people taking the orders don't have to be literate. The screens show pictures instead of words. There's no reason we can't work those ourselves. And the kitchens can be largely automated. You just need someone to be there if the computers go wrong and to refill the machines. Wendy's could become a large vending machine. Heck, once cars become self driving fast food could become like ice cream trucks. Just cruising the neighborhoods by themselves looking for someone who wants a mass produced hamburger.

Henry Ford made sure that his workers got paid enough that they could afford the cars they made. If the factories are automated and the fast food joints are automated and the driving is automated and paper pushing is automated we're quickly running short on people who can afford these or many other services. We end up with a bunch of people who need assistance to afford food, shelter, and health care. I mean more than we do already.

This article talks about how a load of jobs people thought were safe may soon be automated. If you open the PDF you'll want to scroll to the end to see the list of at-risk careers. I've had a bunch of similar articles in the last year that have either been lost or went in Friday Links. I'd been wanting to put them in a post like this.

How do we move from an economy based on work and paying for services to one based on very little need for work? Essentially a Star Trek economy? How do we get there without large scale rioting? We have a hard enough time providing health insurance for everyone.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Return of Jack-Jack

You know about my neighborhood stray cats. Shortly before I moved in two of the cats vanished. Ink and Crackerjack vanished at the same time. Ink was a bully to the other cats, kept starting fights, and isn't really missed. Crackerjack (a.k.a. Jack-Jack), on the other hand, was one of the sweetest cats ever met. The first time Jack-Jack and Yummy met, the cat climbed up on her shoulders and lie down. Jack-Jack soon came to prefer me. He'd sleep in the chairs on my front porch when I wasn't around, would pass a dozen occupied front porches to climb up on my lap, and would sometimes climb in an open window and hang out. Then he vanished.

Last night I was working on my future bedroom and saw some eyes out on the porch roof. I opened the window and the cat didn't run off. With some encouragement it came over for head rubs. It was Jack-Jack with a new flea collar. I climbed out on the roof and Jack climbed up on my lap after a few minutes. That got rid of any doubts of who it was. 

He came inside for a bit and then left. Later he came back in, hurried down the stairs, through the kitchen, tried to go out the closed kitchen window, then stood by the door until I let him out. He stood on the back step rails and watched the other cats. Then slowly started rediscovering his old turf. 

Sorry for the selfies. But it's hard to take a picture of a cat on your shoulders without making them selfies.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Republicans stop Democrat override

If the Senate bill to fund the government were to come up for a vote in the House it would pass. No question. There's enough Republican defectors to end this mess immediately. But Boehner won't let it come up for a vote. Democrats had been working on a way to override him and force a vote. There was some bureaucratic muddle to get it done, but they finally got there. And this is what happened.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Links: October 11

Obamacare rollout goes well in Kentucky. [link]

Halloween evilness.

Movies ruined by adding a word to the title. [link]

BREAKING BAD SPOILER: Albuquerque newspaper runs Walter White obit. [link]
Highlight black box to reveal subject.

Bird calls rendered with digital particle effects. [link]

"Ow, fuck!" - last words of Roald Dahl that screwed up his planned statement. [link]

A brief history of government shut downs. [link]
Geez, no wonder Carter was voted out of office. 6 shutdowns! Reagan had 8, but short ones.

Aw, we in the northern hemisphere don't get to see Comet ISON until December. [link]

A short comic based on an HP Lovecraft story. [link]

Zoos and water parks can be used to give MRI to those too obese for normal scanners. [link]

Tsundoku: the Japanese word for books bought but unread. [link]

Having destroyed their natural predators, jellyfish are spreading and becoming a serious problem. So we're having to build robot predators. [link]

Silk Road and how the FBI took it down. [link]

The biased media and it's role in the shutdown. [link]
Which is why you should use the BBC and NPR for honest reporting.

Prehistoric spork mouthed elephant. [link]

A brief history of drinking on the job. [link]

Dogs trained to go into MRI machines are more human than previously thought. [link]

The realities of lacking health insurance for the sick, the hospital, and those insured. [link]

Extinct tree brought back. [link]

Put a head on this thing so you know which way is the front!

Cultural tips from an amateur observer. [link]

Half marathon runner misses her exit and takes 10th in a full marathon. [link]


Digital dead drops. [link]

The starving process and how long you can go on your body fat. [link]

Free birth control cuts abortions and teen pregnancy by 75-80%. [link]

Living the dream. [link]

Disney's new touchy feely generator. [link]

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Barilla boycott

This is a couple of weeks old, but I'm posting it anyway.

The CEO of the Barilla pasta company, Guido Barilla, recently said in an interview
“I would never do an advert with a homosexual family…if the gays don’t like it they can go an eat another brand.
“For us the concept of the sacred family remains one of the fundamental values of the company.
“Everyone has the right to do what they want without disturbing those around them
“I have no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who is not able to choose,"
Yeah, it stirred up a shit storm and he apologized... sorta.
“I’m sorry if my comments on La Zanzara (radio show where he made the comments) have created misunderstanding or polemic, or if I’ve offended anyone. In the interview I only wanted to underline the central role of the woman in the family,"
No, Guido, try again.
"I apologize if my words have offended some people."
He also said the usual line of crap about respecting everybody and ended with
"Barilla in its advertising has always chosen to represent the family because this is the symbol of hospitality and love for everyone."
Which basically means, "I haven't changed my mind or learned anything but please forget what I said."

You've probably seen Barilla on shelves in the United States. I don't know if I've ever seen their ads. They also own Voiello (Italy), Filiz (Turkey), Misko (Greece?), Vesta (Mexico), Yemina (Mexico), Wasa (Sweden), Pavesi (Italy), Mulino Bianco (Italy), and Harrys (France) products. I've been looking for a list of restaurants that use Barilla, having read that it's a lot, but can't find anything other than Pastamania (Malaysia, India, Middle East, Singapore). I was hoping to write to them and suggest a change of pasta. In the United States it looks like we can just boycott the Barilla label.

Of course, if you take the other position, then this just tells you what your new favorite pasta company is. Much like how you flocked to Chick-Fil-A when they came out against gay marriage or how I bought extra cookies when I found out how much conservatives hate what the Girl Scouts teach.

Guido, if you really want to fix this you need a speech that features the phrase "I was wrong" prominently.

Monday, October 07, 2013

It's every department for themselves

For me, at least, the furlough is over. The government shutdown carries on, but for 90% of the DoD we're back in business.


Friday, October 04, 2013

Friday Links: October 4

Once upon a time everyone in New York moved on the same day. [link]

A collection of short sci-fi films worth watching. [link] [more]

Absurd stock photography. [link]

Body control commercial.

1% of the world's wood is used by Ikea. [link]

Pictures of an eagle attacking a deer. [link]

The case for college. [link]
Just remember to get a degree worth something.

A woman trying to make 300 unique sandwiches. [link]

A crossbow inspired by Discworld novels. [link]

Technical analysis of the reaction to new freedom restrictions. [link]

Begging for Bitcoins. [link]

Strange object in orbit in 2002. [link]

The time the US almost nuked North Carolina. [link]

Sugar's big con job. [link]

ONLY 1 in 10 children are child laborers worldwide. [link]
I'm thinking part of the reason for Africa's numbers is because of their huge AIDS orphan issue.

Dear JJ Abrams, This is what Star Wars is.

Water drumming.

Fun with a spinning monitor. [link]

Earthquake created a new island. Recently. [link]

Emmy losers party. [link]

25 most powerful websites in internet history. [link]
You won't expect these answers.

An honest Obamacare explanation.

The IPCC climate report conclusions. [link]

A short history of Ctrl-Alt-Del. [link]

Hanging sheets of art. [link]

Nifty wall. [link]

Aaron Paul on The Price is Right.

A bionic leg with mental controls.

Drink chocolate milk shakes after a work out. [link]
OK, twist my arm.

The true cost of not vaccinating. [link]

Animal spies. [link]

Cthulhu sofa. Perfect for ... frat houses? [link]

Moses Supposes (his toes are roses) all Japanesed up. [link]

Real life Monopoly settings. [link]

Peter Hollens sings "Want You Gone" (Portal 2 theme).

Baby squirrel adopted by cat.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

House ideas

My parents are looking to build a new house before too long. This post is directed at them. For the rest of you, the latest Solar Decathlon just started in California. So I won't be attending. And you won't be suffering from 2 weeks of pictures. 

Here's some stuff I've seen at various Solar Decathlons that you might want to think about. 

Not the green wall. The garden just off the patio. 

A garden rack made of old angle iron and using a rain barrel for water.

Same, but up close.
There's these great exterior blinds that let in winter sun but keep out summer sun. They also prevent hail damage and decrease tornado damage.
These are on tracks so they can be pushed aside. Just reuse what we pulled off Grandma's barn.

These don't slide, but can be pushed out. 

Like so.
Or you can have them on rails AND able to swing up.
Or WAY up.

A lattice on the south wall should help keep the house cool. But mosquitos may hide behind the plants.

A flexible drain rack ingredient stand behind the sink. 

See above.

A use for the wood from the barn.

If you want to use solar water heaters or energy collectors but don't want them seen, you can do the roof like this. 

Then the water can be easily collected and used in something like this. 

If you want to get away from the farm house look you can make something from old grain bins.
Dad's collection of interesting grasses could be put to good use, too.

Sliding shelves to open up the house for family gatherings. 

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Shutdown memes

Rush hour in the DC subway during a government shutdown.

On the National Mall yesterday.

The Washington Post yesterday.

And this is the thinking of those responsible.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Maryland Renaissance Festival

After 12 years I finally made it to the Maryland Renaissance Festival. The two I'd been to in the past were a tiny one at Kansas Neuman college in Wichita and the one outside Kansas City. The Maryland one compares nicely to the one outside Kansas City.

In KC the performers have to ask for donations after each show.
In MD they're paid by the festival.

In KC the joust is off in a corner and is a whole tournament that lasts a good part of the day. A wall of people forms and you can't get in to see the show
In MD there's three jousts that each last less than an hour. People come, see the show, and leave.

There's a much greater selection of food in MD. The pizza and spaghetti was a bit of a puzzle until I realized that we think of Renaissance festivals celebrating medieval times and not much of the Renaissance. That still doesn't explain the cheesecake on a stick.

The archery booths were a joke. You had to shoot at your neighbor's target to have a hope of hitting yours. The midair gymnastics of the arrows were really rather impressive.

The mead was good. I tried some Vikingernes Mjod recently that tasted like spite. Not Sprite. Spite. Both the spite and the festival mead tasted like white wine with honey added, but the festival mead was pretty good.

There weren't as many people with tails as I had expected. Some people had slightly animatronic creatures on their shoulders, but not many. There was one guy in a quality Star Trek: The Next Generation costume. Two people had Star Trek: The Reboot Movies uniform t-shirts. One 10th Doctor outfit. A few vikings. A Lannister. A few Victorian era outfits edging into steampunk.

If you go, you'll want to check out the Battle School show. They start with a scene from The Princess Bride and then explain who all the names mentioned during the battle were and their contribution to fencing. Then they go through a variety of swords, how they got their names, how to use them, then do a battle in slow motion followed by the same battle at BATTLE SPEED (you have to yell it)!

Hopefully, it won't be another 12 years before I make it back.