brainwagon "There is much pleasure in useless knowledge." — Bertrand Russell

31May/04Off

Stereo Video Project

Ever on the lookout for nifty projects, I stumbled across this stereo video display. It works by synchronizing cheap board level video cameras with a rather simple circuit, and then using lcd shutter glasses on the display.
I've seen broad descriptions of similar systems, but this one is very detailed and includes complete descriptions of all the necessary hardware and modifications.

Some similar gadgets are on the Digital Stereo Photography page, along with nifty gallery images taken with his hardware.

31May/04Off

Weight Watchers Progress

The project that I've spent the most time on lately is actually myself. Last December I was having some health difficulties and visited my doctor, who reported that my weight was as high as it had ever been (a staggering 323 lbs, ouch!) and that my cholesterol and blood pressure weren't looking much better. I decided that I had to do something about it, and started working to improve my diet, exercise more, and since January, join Weight Watchers.

I'm now down over 50lbs since that day in December, and down an even 35 lbs from when I started weight watchers. If I get down into the 230-240 lb range, I'll probably be a happy camper. Anyway, I decided to try to make a nifty chart showing my weight loss progress, so here it is!

I'm beginning to slow down a bit, but I'm hoping that increasing my exercise will help. Unfortunately I strained a calf muscle pretty badly on my hill, and it still gives me a bit of pain when I exercise, so I am taking it easy for now (although I did do a walk with Carmen yesterday).

For those of you who have wondered about Weight Watchers, it really does help. I recommend them.

Filed under: My Projects Comments Off
31May/04Off

Who will Kerry choose to be VIP?

John Moe weighs the pros and cons of some possibles on mcsweeneys.net. I particularly like the idea of choosing Clinton, if only to see the heads of Republicans twist themselves clean off their bodies.

Filed under: Politics Comments Off
30May/04Off

Still more baseball statistics, and a story…

Amazing what you can find when you dig. On retrosheet.org you can find box scores for lots of games. Pretty cool. For instance, I dug up the box score from an interesting game I attended.

The date was Sept 5, 2001. I was anxious to go to this Wednesday game because this would be the final appearance of Cal Ripken Jr. at the Oakland Coliseum. Cal would go 0 for 4 that day, but that's not why I remember the game. The A's would win 12-6, but that's also not what I remember.

Filed under: Baseball Continue reading
30May/04Off

More Baseball Statistics

Baseball-DataBank.org has statistics similar (identical?) to those from baseball1.com but has conveniently placed them in the form of a 33 megabyte file that you can import directly into MySQL. With it, you can formulate pretty simple queries in SQL and learn, for instance, the top 10 players of all time in ABs..

mysql> select sum(Batting.AB), concat(Master.nameFirst, ' ', Master.nameLast) 
from Batting, Master where Master.playerID = Batting.playerID 
group by Master.playerID order by 1 desc limit 10 ;
+-----------------+------------------------------------------------+
| sum(Batting.AB) | concat(Master.nameFirst, ' ', Master.nameLast) |
+-----------------+------------------------------------------------+
|           14053 | Pete Rose                                      |
|           12364 | Hank Aaron                                     |
|           11988 | Carl Yastrzemski                               |
|           11551 | Cal Ripken Jr.                                 |
|           11434 | Ty Cobb                                        |
|           11336 | Eddie Murray                                   |
|           11008 | Robin Yount                                    |
|           11003 | Dave Winfield                                  |
|           10972 | Stan Musial                                    |
|           10961 | Rickey Henderson                               |
+-----------------+------------------------------------------------+
10 rows in set (3.73 sec)
Filed under: Baseball Comments Off
30May/04Off

The Mathematics of Baseball

I just finished reading Moneyball, and as I woke up this morning I was wondering what good online information was available on the mathematics and statistics of baseball. Such are the questions that Google was invented for.

Little Professor Baseball: Mathematics and Statistics of Baseball Simulation is the first link a search on "baseball" and "mathematics" produced. It's a nice page that talks about the basic principles of baseball simulation, and gives you the rules for a simple (or advanced) game to simulate baseball games using whatever lineups you desire. In briefly glancing over the ideas, it's a little simplistic, but it could be kind of fun.

In chasing down links from the above page, I found that baseball1.com has a downloadable database consisting of batting and pitching statistics for 1871-2003. It is even free for research use. I downloaded it as a CSV list, but other database formats are also possible. I like CSV's because Python has a nice module for reading and writing them.

Further poking in Google output yields a book entitled Curve Ball -- Baseball, Statistics and the Role of Chance in the Game. I may have to dig around and see whether it has good reviews.

Moneyball mentions sabermetrics: an attempt to bring some actual rationality to baseball statistics. I found this brief introduction and those terrific guys at baseball1.com have a veritable goldmine of links and tools.

Filed under: Baseball Comments Off
29May/04Off

The Day After Tomorrow

Well, this weekend's movie extravaganza was The Day After Tomorrow, a classic global catastrophe film. Dennis Quaid stars as a paleoclimatologist who is the first to recognize that global warming can cause (and in the short span of the movie actually does cause) a global ice age.

I could tell you that the science of this movie is only slightly better than The Core, but let's face it: if you go to this movie, you aren't trying to learn more about climatology. You want to see huge tidal waves, tornados, hail and freezing snow, and lots of mayhem and destruction. This movie delivers pretty good doses of those, including multiple tornados in Los Angeles and tidal waves which devastate Manhattan. This movie is brought to you by the same people who produced Independence Day, so you might expect that they know how to show the audience big catastrophes, and you'd be right.

But ultimately the movie falls a little short of the standard. (If you didn't like Independence Day, then why are you going to this movie anyway?) Ultimately there is something just a bit more satisfying about having huge alien spacecraft wiping out New York and Washington than just a spate of bad (okay, really bad) weather. There are also a few puzzling features about the cut (the President of the United States is killed off screen, but they do spend time to show him evacuating the Capitol building, a couple of other characters disappear from the plotline without mention), and overall there is just relatively little genuine panic despite the devastation of the entire Northern Hemisphere. The characters are all pretty poorly developed, despite a natural performance by Dennis Quaid.

I'd give it about a 7 out of 10 rating. Get some popcorn and a soda and revel in the special effects work, but don't think too hard about the plot or bother to get involved in the characters.

You can read this article about the science (and lack thereof) of Day After Tomorrow.

Filed under: Movie Review Comments Off
29May/04Off

Chernobyl Chopper Chick is a fraud…

Apparently the tale of Elena, the young lady who did a photolog of her trip through the quarantine zone which surrounds Chernobyl is a fraud. Her photos are apparently real, but were taken during an ordinary tour arranged through a Kyiv travel agency. Motorcycles are banned in the zone.

What a pity. Some urban legends just should be true.

I had previously mentioned her here.

Filed under: General Comments Off
28May/04Off

Fun with Python and Cryptography

I'm a bit of a classic cryptography nut, and I also have had a lot of fun writing bits of Python code. Python is awfully good at sucking up text files and performing statistics and the like, so I thought I would go ahead and describe some of the fun things I've been doing.

I've developed code to crack fairly sophisticated ciphers before, including both the Playfair and Enigma machines, but I thought it might be fun to work on a simple python script to crack ordinary substitution ciphers using evolutionary computation. You would probably get better results from using a dictionary based attack, but I thought this would be both simple and fun.

28May/04Off

Software Potpourri

Python 2.3.4 is out. Just a bugfix release. FreeBSD 4.10 was also released earlier this week. This is the first "Errata Branch", which will include security fixes and other significant and well tested fixes.

28May/04Off

Please Excuse Our President

Dug this brief blurb off of talk.origins this morning. From the pages of New Scientist:

HERE'S one US company where "freedom fries" surely never appeared on the staff restaurant menu, even when Francophobia was at its height. One of its products is a laptop bag which bears a label in English and French. The English version reads simply and sensibly "Wash with warm water; use mild soap; dry flat; do not use bleach; do not dry in the dryer; do not iron". The French version, only, continues (in translation): "We are sorry that our president is an idiot. We didn't vote for him."

27May/04Off

Beware the traitors that walk among us…

Furby, or Spy?Somehow I missed out that the NSA had banned Furby from entering their Maryland facilities. Can anyone doubt that beneath their furry exterior they are plotting the overthrow of the United States government?

Well, perhaps not. But you can hack 'em to do all sorts of stuff, or just go straight for the Furby autopsy or perhaps see how we might execute a Furby convicted of war crimes.

27May/04Off

Mini-FAQ Macro Photography, Frugal, mostly Digital

Today's useful link of the day is to Mini-FAQ Macro Photography, Frugal, mostly Digital. This page has lots of good ideas for getting images from digital cameras, microscopes and flatbed scanners. I'll have to try this sometime. My Zeiss-Jena microscope I bought at a flea market for $15 isn't getting enough use.

27May/04Off

Blondes Wrestle for Desirable Movie Role

In entertainment today, Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears are both battling to play that most challenging of thespian roles: Daisy Duke on the upcoming "Dukes of Hazzard" movie.

It appears that Jessica will have spare time since ABC rejected her proposed comedy pilot in which she would play "Jessica Sampson", a ditzy blonde who joins a television news program. Oh, what a challenging role that would have been. It is good to see young women really push themselves as actresses and challenge the stereotypes that confront them.

27May/04Off

Next-gen VIA mobo touts speed, security, MPEG-4

New VIA motherboardThis website runs on a spiffy little VIA motherboard, so I was glad to see that VIA is about to release some new motherboards. You can read this preview on linuxdevices.com. The world needs more capable motherboards that draw less than 20 watts. It even has a built in AES encryption unit. That could be... useful I guess.

I'm also pretty keen on seeing one of the announced Nano-ITX motherboards. I like the idea of a full PC on a motherboard which is only 5"x5".