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


Serious Putty

Everybody needs 5 lbs of Silly Putty, although I must admit I can't imagine why. The official site is at Aaron's Putty World offers all sorts different kinds which you can order in 1lb bags. Or you could try ordering 100lb quantities from Dupont.

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Cassini arrives at Saturn

SaturnAfter a seven year, 2.2 billion year trip, the Cassini spacecraft completed its SOI burn and entered Saturn orbit. Check out the details on or review the project homepage.

During its lifetime, Cassini is supposed to relay over three hundred thousand pictures of Saturn and its surrounding moons. Let the wallpaper downloading commence!


Apologies for downtime…

Sorry to my two or three readers, who undoubtably were devastated to find brainwagon off the air earlier today. I had a brief outage while my domains were shifted to GoDaddy and the name serves were updated. All should be well now.

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Pencilmation has some fun (if silly) flash animations, including the story of "The Monkey and the Coconut", which perhaps people who appreciate monkeys might, in fact, appreciate.

Or not.


All you need to know about lasers…

I was trying to figure out some details about how laser time of flight sensors determine distance, and Sam's Laser FAQ came to the rescue. What a terrific resource for geeky hobbyists.

The simplest laser to build from scratch would appear to be a variation of a design from Scientific American's Amateur Scientist column, but this one requires no glass work and no vacuum apparatus, and can be built for $10 (plus a high voltage power supply).


U.S. Supreme Court Rules on Rights of Detainees

The Supreme Court handed down its rulings on rights of detainees. You can listen to some commentary on NPR if you are streaming enabled.

The basics of the decision as I absorb them now is that the court found that Bush's claim the he could classify people as enemy combatants and hold them indefinitely without access to lawyers or a day in court was extraordinary and in the words of Justice O'Connor would "condense power into a single branch of government" and that "war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."

It is good that the Supreme Court saw fit to exercise their powers to protect the right of habeus corpus. I was frankly amazed at the absolutely brazen nature of the Bush administrations assertions that American citizens could be held indefinitely merely by virtue of executive privilege. Of course, the Supreme Court got it wrong before, so perhaps they thought they could set the clock back sixty years and relive the glory days when the government could deprive American citizens of their liberty without cause or appeal.

The Supreme Court also handed down rulings on the status of detainees at Guantanamo, finding that despite their detention in Guantanamo, they cannot be held without the protection of the judicial process. Again, the Bush administration brazenly held them there in their own private gulag, and argued that they need never give them any ability to argue their cases before an impartial judge.

I'll try to provide links to the text of the actual decisions as soon as I can find them online.

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Barbie Dumps Ken, Dates Blaine, CNN Money covers!

Plastic Tramp Dates 4F GI JoeWhile scanning the headlines of CNN Money this morning, I found out that Barbie is dating again, this time it's a hunky Australian. This is just the kind of insightful business coverage I've come to expect from CNN.

The most precious quote:

After 43 years as one of the world's best-looking couples, Mattel announced the breakup of Barbie and Ken in February. But some experts saw the move by Mattel was purely "a publicity stunt."

Gee, do you think?

Of course the news has always displayed a certain fascination with the dating habits of plastic blondes, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised.

On a slightly more serious note, Mattel lost a trademark infringement suit against a Utah artist and was ordered to pay 1.8 million in court fees. Free speech and the right to parody prevail!


One More Reason To Stop Using IE

CERT has suggested that users stop using IE because of a serious conjuction of two security flaws: one in IE, another in IIS.

If there weren't enough reasons to hate IE, try searching Google to find some more. Me, I just hate it because of all the bugs in their CSS implementation.

Some people want you to use buttons to advertise your distaste. I like their advice:

I'm using Mozilla on my FreeBSD and Linux boxes, and Firefox on my XP laptop. I couldn't be happier.

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Iraq war will cost each family $3145

But to free the world of Weapons of Mass Destruction, it's worth every penny.

I'm beginning to agree: a vote for Bush in November is now a sign of a character flaw.


Blog Me Out to the Ballgame 2004

baseball ticketsTaking a cue from Tom Mangan, I decided to participate in his proposed Blog Me Out to the Ballgame 2004 extravaganza. Carmen and I got some cheap view level tickets, and were treated to a beautiful day at the ballpark, baking in the sun amidst the wide variety of individuals who form that eclectic group known as baseball fans.

My wife decided to blog the game using her Sidekick, I shot some pictures (still to be downloaded mostly) but also shot this small video of the couple sitting directly in front of us. Literally the guy never stopped talking the entire game, chattering "let's go a's, good batter, good batter, let's go a's" into a little plastic megaphone. Both him and his partner also took to holding up a little stuffed moose in an A's uniform, and a little poster. This was slightly less amusing, as he frequently obscured my view of homeplate, as you can see in video.

The amazing thing was he seemed completely oblivious to any nuance of the game, jammering on and on and on no matter what the circumstance to no one in particular. When someone would reach base, I swear he acted like a bobble head, jammering on to the people to he left, to the right, to the left to the right, on and on and on. Weird stuff.

Redmond looked shakey, perhaps the 3 days rest was simply insufficient. Bonds hammered one deep to right field, I can't remember seeing on that deep all last season. Still he didn't bash a window out like Tejada did in interleague play three years ago when the A's crushed the Giants. I didn't get a picture of him swinging, but I did get a nice one of him jogging from 2nd to 3rd.

The Giants also scored a runner from 3rd on a bunt, and pulled off some good hit and runs. The A's didn't make too many errors, but neither did they show much signs of any brilliance either in the hitting or fielding department. They were simply outplayed.

Final score: Giants 5, A's 2, Mark, mild sunburn and over fed with hot dogs.

In other words, a blast.

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Senate Has Too Much Time – Passes Useless Bill

Reuters is reporting that the Senate has just passed a bill that makes using a camcorder to record a movie a federal crime. punishable by up to three years in prison, or up to five years in prison if such recordings were made for commercial purposes.

On the one hand, I work for the movie industry. I also try to respect intellectual property laws, and think there is no legitimate excuse for video taping a movie inside a theater.

But get real! Three to five years?


Pay for My Stupidity

Kite Photo of San Francisco, 1906Slashdot provided a link to KiteCam Disaster Fund Appeal, the website for an individual who lofted and subsequently landed a Casio EX-3 digital camera using a kite. To pay for the folly of his poor engineering and inadequate kite flying skills, he now has resorted to pleas for money. Frankly, I think giving money to someone who destroys cameras is kind of silly. Why not send money to individuals who actually can repeatedly send cameras to high altitudes without destroying them?

The grand daddy of all kite photography places on the web is Charles Benton's Kite Aerial Photography. Awesome stuff, and local to boot. KAP in Amarillo, TX also has a bunch of nice photos, including 360 degree panoramas. Awesome.

If you click on the tiny photo on the right, you can see a cool photo of San Francisco just after the 1906 eartquake, taken from a captive balloon from about 2700 feet.


21 Rules of Thumb — How Microsoft develops its Software

Jim McCarthy writes about 21 Rules of Thumb that guide the development of software products inside Microsoft. There are very few surprises, but I've been involved in quite a few software products before turning in my leaf and becoming a TD, and I bet most product managers would find more of them surprising than I did. McCarthy has a very pragmatic and practical view of software engineering, and serves as a good counter-agent to the marketing hype of most software companies.


Spoofing Biometric Scanners

Marie Sandström has a short thesis on spoofing biometric fingerprint scanners. It involves collecting latent prints, and then casting a replica finger in gelatin. I have read about such techniques here by Tsutomo Matsumoto, and here it is two years later and the latest hardware appears no more effective.


Python Weblog Software — Aether

Aether is a simple weblog/website authoring system written by Paul Harrison. He's also got some other cool stuff that he's written, including GIMP plugins for texture synthesis. He's also got an electronic singing tortoise.