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


Tinkering with Toys

Walking Robot SchematicI recall seeing the plans for a simple walking, balancing robot constructed out of TinkerToys, and while surfing around aimlessly I ran accross it again. I thought I'd go ahead and archive the paper which described it just for fun. It seems like the kind of toy you should just go ahead and build so you can show it off in your cubical. The Cornell Human Power Lab has some videos of this and related projects at their website. Enjoy.


BXFlyer Four Rotor Helicopter

A couple of days ago I was talking about small robotic flyers, I should have known that somebody at the Seattle Robotics Society would already have done something like this. Check out BXFlyer Four Rotor Helicopter for a description of a four rotor robotic flyer similar to the commercially available DragonFlyer.

Addendum: I found a link to a nice design document for a similar project. It includes a mathematical model for the dynamics of the system.


How To Build Your Own Blog

orange coneThe title is a bit of a fraud. This is not so much an article on how to build your own weblog as a short bit about what I think is important in building a weblogging system, what is not important and how to drive most directly toward a system that is simple, flexible and works. It also describes some experiments that I've been performing, and will soon deploy on my orangecone website.


What’s the lesson of The Swan?

Allright, I admit it. I watch lots of crap "reality" television shows. None do I find more disturbing than The Swan.


Moneyball, by Michael Lewis

Moneyball I received an interesting phone call from my friend Phil last week. I hadn't heard much from Phil, but he called me in the middle of a ferry ride to San Francisco to tell me that he was reading a book called Moneyball by Michael Lewis, and that he was sure that I'd enjoy it. I'm a hundred or so pages into it now, and I must agree, I do like it.


On the strike zone…

Baseball!This morning I was catching up on Baseball tonight to see what went on with baseball yesterday. I mostly wanted to see what happened yesterday when Reggie Jackson's number 9 was retired over in Oakland before the Athletics-Royals matchup, but in skipping through it, I caught an editorial by Rob Dibble on the state of umpiring. Rob seems to think that if you've got a Roger Clemens on the mound, the umpire should defer to the pitcher and "not change the course of the game" by calling the strike zone as he sees it.

Pardon me, but why have umpires at all if that's the case?

I think that umpires should be ruthless in their strike zone: establish it early, try to hold it, and don't let who is on the mound or at the plate dictate whether you are going to call something a ball or a strike. Clemens doesn't need your charity: he should not get the benefit of the doubt anymore than a first year rookie. What you've done before is all history. If you are a great pitcher, you have to prove it each and every time you come to the mound.

As a fairly recently evolved fan of baseball, I had never heard of Dibble, but after this diatribe it seemed rather obvious to me that he probably was a pitcher. Sure enough, he pitched for the Reds from 1988 to 1993, and had a reputation for a wicked fastball and pitching at people with little provocation. He was also reprimanded for throwing a ball into the stand and hitting a first grade teacher. Nice. I don't think I'm a fan.

Filed under: Baseball Comments Off

Lair of the Chrome Cow

For some reason I found myself looking for plans for cheap 3D scanners at 1:15AM this morning, and came up with the Lair of the Chrome Cow. Surprisingly, I remember this site being mentioned on an old slashdot posting, but I guess I didn't look. It's got some nifty ideas.

I'll have to think about them tomorrow.


A Paper on Small RC Vehicles

I'm always interested in bizarre remote control applications, so I was pleased to find this informative paper on the development of the Black Widow Micro Air Vehicle, an RC vehicle with a 6" wingspan, a range of 1.8 kilometers and a live video transmitter. Nifty and informative.

Filed under: Science Comments Off

Spiral Fresnel Reflectors

Spiral Fresnel ReflectorA recent Slashdot article was a rather dull one about fun things you could do with a large Fresnel lenses. I had seen stuff like this before, but in scanning over the responses as I often do, I found a reference to a patent for a spiral Fresnel reflector. You can review this the patent here. It's rather clever. Basically you can plot a spiral onto a flat sheet of reflective material, and then wind it around according to a particular formula (equation 2 in the patent) which causes the slats to tilt at the appropriate angle to bring light to the desired focus.

I thought it was a cool idea, I'll have to work up a program to plot the design for these, and then use it to make an immense solar hot dog cooker. Or something.

Filed under: Science Comments Off

Shrek 2

Shrek 2It's rare that a sequel film surpasses a good original film, but I must say: Shrek 2 must be judged as one of those rare films. It builds on everything that was good about the original: the look, the story, and the vocal talent and delivers a new movie which is familar but not predictable and which looks great.

You can review how it compares against Finding Nemo on, but I suspect it's going to do very well. Congratulations to everyone at Dreamworks and PDI. I suspect you've hit one out of the park.

Filed under: Movie Review Comments Off

Software Update

I've upgraded this blog to use the latest release of WordPress. It's unfortunate that the software mingles functionality and appearance in the way that it does, it makes upgrading more painful than it should be. In particular I had to make some changes to the index.php to rearrange the appearance of the menu portion to the right.

I feel a rant coming on, but I think I'm going to hold it in until I can demonstrate a solution to this kind of problem. Stay tuned.

Filed under: My Projects Comments Off
21May/04Off Overhaulin’

HermesSweet Manatee of Santa Fe. Apparently if you post an article about a TV show on your blog, you become their official voice on the Web. Read the comments below the main posting.

If you really do want to get on the show, a simple Google search will turn find you how, admittedly below the weblog cited above. Quirky finger of Google.


Andy Tanenbaum on ‘Who Wrote Linux’

It's fascinating the degree to which Microsoft/SCO backed front companies are trying to create FUD around the use and authorship of the Linux operating system. In a Slashdot article today, they link to an article by Andy Tanenabaum about Ken Brown's claims that Linux Torvards is not the author of Linux. Brown's argument seems to center around the notion that it's impossible for an individual to write an entire operating system by themselves.

This would seem to be a curious idea to come away with after talking to Andy Tanenbaum, since that's precisely what Andy himself did.


Modal Web Server Example Part 1

I thought that this article, Modal Web Server Example Part 1, had some interesting ideas. I think that many existing web applications are hampered by the fact they are implemented in rather crufty and adhoc languages. The author of this seems a bit more disciplined.

Some interesting ideas, and an excuse to look at Seaside, a web application framework written in Smalltalk.


MSNBC – Can Star Wars: Episode III be saved?

Today someone on our local message board posted a link to MSNBC - Can Star Wars: Episode III be saved?, a story that suggested that if one could fire George Lucas, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman and put in more Christopher Lee, you could hire some real writers and salvage the entire script.

Not a bad notion.