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


Google a map of Mars

Carmen noticed that the Google home page had a logo that included a telescope looking at Mars.   A moment's digging revealed that there is a new version of Google Maps called  Google Mars. Now everyone can view VallesMarineris and Olympus Mons.  Cool stuff.

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Peel a potato in one step – Lifehacker

Courtesy of a Japanese TV show, learn how to peel a potato in one step.  Well, to be fair, it's not really one step.  You do this by:

  1. Cutting the skin all around the middle of the potato.
  2. Boiling the potato.
  3. Immersing it in cold water to the count of ten.
  4. And then, just pull the skin off.

It's not quite as radical as folding T-shirts, but it's kind of cute.


Weekend Musings

Did you ever have one of those weekends when you had too much rattling around in your skull to make any headway on any of it? That's sort of what I'm up to this weekend. Rather than let it all rattle, I'll toss some of it out here:

  1. I heard that OfficeDepot was liquidating their stock of the Zyxel 2000W wireless VOIP phones for $59.04. I went to my local Office Depot and picked one up. I might still give a more thorough review, but the bottom line is "don't bother". It works fairly well as far as audio quality (although at the default gain settings you get some echo), but the deal breakers are really miserable battery life (I doubt you could get an hour of talk time, and slightly less than 24 hours of standby time) and problems hopping onto open access ports. It's just rough product all around.
  2. In a somewhat work related thread, I've been studying a bit about anamorphic camera lenses. Lenses like this are used to film widescreen 2.39:1 film onto regular 35mm stock, and then a similar projection camera lens is used to "undistort" the image back upon projection. Pixar has done many of its films in Cinemascope, so it's of some interest. Anyhoo, I found that in my junk box of optical crap, I had an old Bell and Howell anamorphic projection lens. Somewhat on a whim, I decided to try placing it in front of my ordinary miniDV video camera, and seeing if it would work. It seems to: I need to make a jig to hold the lens in place in front, and then maybe I'll shoot some video. Stay tuned for that.
  3. While I was doing some further research, I found a thread about people manufacturing their own anamorphic projection "lenses". I put lenses in quotes because the way this works is by passing light through two different prisms, made from glass and filled with turpentine and water, respectively. As part of my telescopemaking endeavors, I learned quite a bit about optical design before, but I hadn't really studied this kind of anamorphic system before, so I went to work trying to write the design equations for this kind of setup. I think I roughly understand what's going on. I never really studied prisms much, but basically they are trying to create an achromatic prism. To really design such a thing, you need to know the index and dispersion (Abbe number) of the two materials, and do a bit of spreadsheet math. I might doodle around with that later today.
  4. I did a bit of geocaching yesterday. I was going to try to download some of my tracks and plot them with Google Maps. Maybe I'll get to that later too.
  5. Oh, and I have Weight Watchers weigh-in today. My weight is up, and I'm feeling annoyed and deprived.

That's what's rattling around in my skull, now, the incredibly diverse tags.

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