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

22Nov/05Off

I hate CSI: Miami!

Oh, dear, lord.

Could the episode I watched have been any more ridiculous?

In the episode Urban Hellraisers, the plotline featured a gang of young college hoodlums who decide to play a live action version of Grand Theft Auto Urban Hellraisers. It featured the following incredible plot points (I'd normally fear spoiling the plot or someone, but the writers beat me to it):

  • About fifty beauty shots of the Hummer H3, interspersed with ten minutes of Hummer H3 commercials, and followed up by a plea to go to cbs.com to watch a special ending, featuring even more Hummer commercials.
  • The usual plot device of having an "infinite resolution camera" which happens to allow them to read the sticker in the window of a car from hundreds of feet away.
  • Cliché about gamers gone crazy, who are playing the game for real.
  • Cliché about gamer playing himself to death and dying of renal failure.
  • The "winner" of the game turns out to be a nerdy girl who was "just trying to fit in."
  • The mastermind behind the entire crime spree was an unscrupulous game developer who planned the whole thing to please his stockholders by driving up interest in the game, who comically asserts that "I'll never do a day behind bars!"

Could this show be any more stupid? Honestly, I'm beginning to look back at Three's Company for instances of plot sophistication. If you are a writer for this show, send your paycheck back: you are ripping of the company you work for.

100% Crap.

22Nov/051

Gutenberg Gems: Watch and Clock Escapements, by Anonymous

A Watch EscapementIf you aspire to be an horologist, you don't have to done fishnet stockings and hot pants, you merely need to study up on the design and manufacture of escapements. Luckily, there is a nifty illustrated book on the Project Gutenberg website that details some of what you'll need to know: Watch and Clock Escapements, by Anonymous. If you haven't thought of it before (and why would you, in this soul-less age of digital watches), how do you think that mechanical watches actually worked? Well, they use a gadget called an escapement, the design of which is the core function of traditional clockmaking. From the book:

The problem to be solved by means of the escapement has always been to govern, within limits precise and perfectly regular, if it be possible, the flow of the motive force; that means the procession of the wheel-work and, as a consequence, of the hands thereto attached. At first blush it seems as if a continually-moving governor, such as is in use on steam engines, for example, ought to fulfil the conditions, and attempts have accordingly been made upon this line with results which have proven entirely unsatisfactory.

Having thoroughly sifted the many varieties at hand, it has been finally determined that the only means known to provide the most regular flow of power consists in intermittently interrupting the procession of the wheel-work, and thereby gaining a periodically uniform movement. Whatever may be the system or kind of escapement employed, the functioning of the mechanism is characterized by the suspension, at regular intervals, of the rotation of the last wheel of the train and in transmitting to a regulator, be it a balance or a pendulum, the power sent into that wheel.

Interesting stuff.

Filed under: Gutenberg Gems 1 Comment
22Nov/050

Visualizing the code of Atari 2600 games

Ben Fry has some cool graphics which visualize the code in several old Atari 2600 video games. Basically, he disassembles code and marks all possible branches with arcs between the lines of code, and changes all data tables to graphical representations of the bit patterns, revealing many sprites and other data tables. I dunno how useful it is, but it's kind of neat.

22Nov/050

Anaglyphs, in color!

Stereo Pair of My Desk

Check these out with the red/blue 3D glasses. Kind of cool, huh?

If you followed my tutorial on how to do this with black and white images, you can probably figure out how to do this. The source pair
Basically, the red image is just the red channel of the left image, and the green and blue channels are the green and blue channels of the right image. Combine them using "Add" or "Screen modes". You can get some eyestraining effects when certain objects are strongly green or red, but overall, the effect works rather nicely.

Give it a try.

Addendum: Others are on the same wavelength as me.

22Nov/050

Those Geniuses at Apple

I bought Carmen a video iPod a few weeks ago, and she loves it. You can apparently play video on a regular TV, but you need a special Apple video cable to do so. Or do you? According to the guys at MacDevCenter, all you really need to do is realize that the special Mac cable is just an ordinary A/V cable with an eight inch to RCA plugs like you'd use to connect a camcorder to a TV, and remember that they send the video out the red connector instead of out the yellow connector.

How annoying is that? I suppose we should be grateful, they could have done something really annoying and made other cables really incompatible with their own, but sheesh.

22Nov/051

Planning a Thanksgiving Meal

I admire those people who cook fifteen different dishes from their cookbook that was handed down for ages. I just don't have the kitchen or frankly the patience to do that. I don't mind doing a turkey (it's really a snap) or things like sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, or green beans with pearl onions and bacon (three items on my list this year). People in my house like stuffing, but I hate to make it so (gasp!) it's box stuffing for them. 🙂 Pies? I buy 'em. They are better than mine anyway. I do make a mean pumpkin cheesecake, but I think I'm gonna skip it this year (too unfriendly to my weight loss attempts). But really, with a bit of forethought, we can get most of these things done in a little over an hour of actual work time. They aren't really all that complicated.

Over at Lifehacker, I thought it was amazing that somebody has produced an Excel template for planning your Thanksgiving cooking. Dear Lord, when cooking requires spreadsheets, maybe you should begin planning a potluck. 🙂

Filed under: General 1 Comment