here i am, on my trip to paris!! it is the future 2043 and the entire world is now under the control of the Chinese.
the shopkeep led my gaze to the handmade oil painting above: “this is our new model”
of course i bought it. who wants painting 1.0 when painting 2.0 is out?
i think nearly all people would feel quite uncomfortable to have a gun pointed at them. i think it is the realization that with a single thought and twitch of their finger the gun-pointing person can kill you. just a single thought and a twitch of a finger! you can only hope that this person pointing a gun at you is a rational, responsible person with control over their thoughts and actions. most people i meet in my day to day life seem to be calm, rational and responsible most of the time. 99% of the time even. of course not everyone is so collected, we all know people that are high strung. and we also know that even responsible people have a bad day sometimes. they overslept, the dog peed their shoes, the traffic was a mess, their boss yelled at them. then they are pointing a gun at you - how well do you trust the high strung woman after she just got mud on her dress and people laughed? that teenager that just found out his girlfriend was cheating and everyone knew it? maybe for just a moment he loses it and twitches his finger? i’m sure they will both be very sorry after they calm down.
if you are thinking that this has little bearing on the world around you, think again. every single day - often for half an hour or more - millions of americans are pointing deadly weapons directly at unarmed people all around them. with just a momentary loss of calm thinking and an effortless twitch of the wrist or the ankle, these drivers kill a pedestrian or cyclist on our streets. the pedestrian or cyclist stands no better chance against a motor vehicle than they would a handgun. worse even! a motor vehicle has a 7 foot wide bullet so you can’t miss the target.
the burden of responsibility for wielding a deadly weapon normally falls on the wielder. if you have a few beers and some guy makes a pass at your girl and you shoot him, you are still responsible. and if you are someone that has trouble keeping yourself under control, you shouldn’t be allowed to point a deadly weapon, and perhaps it might fall on other people to help identify you as someone that can’t be trusted with a deadly weapon and make sure you can’t have one. i think most people understand this makes good sense for both guns and cars.
sometimes accidents happen. if you walk into a room and you see an unarmed person dead or injured on the floor and another person holding a gun, you know where to start asking questions. you also know that even if the person on the floor was a hotheaded fool that made a pass at the other guy’s girl, it doesn’t matter. the hothead with a deadly weapon is a danger to us all. the hothead without one is just a hothead. of course in close quarters a person without a handgun still could be dangerous. but a pedestrian and a cyclist are nearly incapable of posing a danger to a motorist encased in a 3000 pound armored box. they couldn’t hurt a hair on the motorist’s head except in the most outlandish scenario. like if they had a handgun.
so when you happen upon an intersection and you see a cyclist on the ground and a car next to them, you know where to start asking questions. you know that the driver is operating a deadly weapon and the cyclist or pedestrial is totally unarmed. and you know that it is a very different thing to be a hothead pointing a deadly weapon, or to just be a hothead. very very different. the life of every cyclist and pedestrian can be ended by the slightest whim of a hotheaded driver. a hotheaded cyclist or pedestrian is no more than nuisance.
sadly, just today in berkeley, and a month ago in oakland, the police didn’t see it that way. neither did the media. unarmed cyclists were INTENTIONALLY struck by motor vehicles, and then blamed for it. hotheads piloting deadly weapons - who had intentionally struck or attempted to strike cyclists in full view of dozens of people - were portrayed as victims. do you want to be crossing the street with groceries and your child in front of that hotheaded driver after they just had a bad day? i don’t. I WANT THAT DRIVER OFF THE STREET.
perhaps you are thinking that a cyclist or pedestrian could be at fault for getting in the way of a car. sure, traffic accidents happen a lot and any of the parties might be at fault, and this is very tragic for all involved. i’m not complaining about the driver who accidentally kills a pedestrian any more than i’m complaining about the 18-wheeler that lost control and crushed a car. but there were multiple incidents here in the last month, and i have personally witnessed others in the past, in which enraged motorists intentionally used their vehicles as deadly weapons against unarmed cyclists. those motorists pose a danger to us all, and they must be brought to justice.
well, they always say that one of the benefits of open source is unexpected use/reuse.Â this reuse of my beanbag sofa completely floored me.
(see the 2 comments by userÂ “ta91mclamb”)
there’s a new bully at SemiFreddis bakery! this hairy guy knashed his teeth quite threateningly to keep me out of his stash. he also seems to have developed a heavy preference for the widely revered ‘walnut levain’, and was quite prepared to battle to the death for it.Â luckily for him he was quite fast on his toes and soon realized that i was playing by the law of the kindergarten land: ‘you chewed it you keep it’.Â there was no walnut levain for me today.
my latest DIY project, an analog controlled RGB lighting system.
video available if you click the link!
I think i’ve discovered a new english street grammar.
the new street rule is: you can use an apostrophe to pluralize *acronyms*. it is still not correct (nor widespread) to use it on normal words. i speculate that the reason for this new street rule is to help the reader disambiguate whether the acronym is actually being pluralized, or if the acronym has an S-word at the end of it. it’s clear if you write: “LEDs”, but not if you write “LEDS”, which is the common acronym for “Laser Entropic Destruction System”.
for example, i often write “LED’s” or “ICBM’s” or “SUV’s” to pluralize, but never “diode’s” or “missile’s” or “jackass’s”.
how prevalent is this new grammar?Â once again, google instantly tells us that “LED’s” is used 10% of the time compared to “LEDs”, and “ICMB’s” is used 15% as often as “ICBMs”, and “SUV’s” is used 10% as often as “SUVs”. and many of those top hits are reputable edited publications.
so, be on the cutting edge of the new english grammer, yall’s.
yesterday i went to the san francisco open studios
there are a truly vast number of artists in the city that all open their doors for the open studios during october weekends. i found a 3-piece tilework that fit in my budget and decided to buy it. shortly after initiating my retail purchase transaction subroutine i noticed that the artist had quite a number of scars on her left wrist, and the right one was bandaged. the general transaction exception was thrown. art is a personal creation, particularly non-reproduceable items like tilework. a piece of the artist’s soul lies within the work! how can the small signed receipt representing an electronic funds transfer possibly compensate? i was reminded of, and expressed to the artist, my happiness with the piece and my good luck at being able to enjoy it in the future! it was immediately clear how much more value this had to her than the small slip of paper.
ok it was hard to find my post in the sea of comments there so here it is:
“any first-world dweller has seen vast amounts of animal-based clothing purchased purely because it is “fashionable”, not because it is in any way needed. similarly, gluttonous consumption of meat, and common factory-farming practices, and wasteful practices such as killing sharks just for their fins - also trivialize the life of the animal. animals should be treated with respect, and this includes their frivolous use for designer clothings and foods. why are “fur” coats banned while leather ones are not? because the animals in question are “cuter”? ugly animals deserve just as much respect as the cute ones - is it any different than racism to only protect cute animals (or “charismatic megafauna”, as biologists call them)? instilling a respect for animals increases badly-needed respect for the environment which is crucial for planetary survival. humans have evolved past the point where competing for food and resources with other animals and people in a “survival of the fittest” way makes any sense at all. we are now in a position where our only option is to become the beneficial stewards of the planet, allowing the rest of nature to live unhampered as much as possible. the alternative - continued domination and subjugation of all in our path - will lead to a humans-only planet with no nature left, only human constructed cities separated by food-production zones and wasteland.”
you were the first
your stout, sturdy stalk
bushy, bountiful bouquet
kept me fulfilled
soft leaves of green
light as the wind
you were once so pure
your succulent ruffles
catch the morning dew
i think i love you
my friend leah has a bunch (six!) kittens, and was so nice as to let me take care of them while she was out of town.Â what precious bundles of joy they are!Â upon seeing them frolic i could not help but immediately ponder their wide range of personality-driven behaviors, and the evolutionary strategy it implies.Â let me elaborate: at only 6 weeks of age, these kittens (all from the same brood - a controlled study?) have significant differences in their personalities.Â some are very curious, outgoing and adventurous, others are very quiet and shy, the rest are in between.Â the differences are very pronounced.Â my hypothesis is: a diversity of personality types in the same brood is a good survival strategy for the species:
extrapolate our scenario to a large number of broods of wild cats scattered across different primordial landscapes.Â The local conditions (food, weather, predators, etc) governing survival will vary considerably from place to place.Â Thus the best survival strategy for a new kitten may not be known - in some cases food might be scarce so a fearless, outgoing cat might be the best chance to find some despite the risks.Â in other cases predators might be rampant so a shy cat might survive the best.Â ideally most of the kittens will survive in the most common environments, but a few outlier personalities seem critical to surviving rare events like a fire or flood even if those personalities are risky in the typical case.Â step 2: extrapolate to human personalities.
of course for this brood of kittens, 100% survival was assured due to their cuteness.
highlights of the natural world from my recent trip to hawaii..
video: sea turtle with fishes
manta ray - about to gobble me up? this one is about 8 feet across. luckily it only eats microscopic goo. perhaps i should make some microscopic goo for dinner? if it works for the manta, it might work for me.
sunset from berkeley hills, with fog cover to about 800 feet
over mount hamilton:
(latter one taken at around 10pm from san francisco bay - aboard the maiden voyage of freeboat2)
in with the new one:
Why yes, glorious reader. I have recently been a contributing author to the short-lived pseudonymous persona of Ask Cassandra, Instructables Oracle. Cassandra answers questions about “electronics, relationships, and stuff”, from a point of view only Cassandra can give. Here are some of my Oracularies:
Q: Dear Cassandra, why do hot dogs come in packages of 12 while hot dog buns come in packages of 8?
Q: Dear Cassandra, I recently purchased an old military ram air parachute to build a paramotor rig with. I need to know what type of horsepower would be required to drive the propellor to provide enough forward thrust to lift me off the ground.
A: Dear Reader, Let us come to terms with this problem starting with a simple thought experiment: consider the case where you use a prop with infinite power. As you can imagine, this will cause you to be propelled forward with infinite velocity at the instant you turn it on. The parachute’s mass and air resistance will quickly cause an infinite strain in the parachute cords, and they will snap. You will also pass out instantly unless you are wearing an infinite-G-suit. You will then continue your infinite velocity forward motion until stopped by an immovable object and likely your body will be dispersed into an infinite number of small particles. Therefore, my answer to you is: Use a motor with less than infinite horsepower! Now, lets think this through a little more because I, Cassandra, consider the questioner a good and honest fellow and friend and would like to see him avoid the coveted Darwin award. It has been said that anybody who teaches themself to fly has a fool for an instructor. Let us view the process of finding the optimal horsepower as a closed-loop positive feedback system. In lay terms this might be described as “trial and error” guided by positive results. Unfortunately prior to reaching self-stable output, such feedback systems may oscillate considerably since the starting point is essentially random, and the output from a randomly selected HP value may just as easily cause no flight as it will a deadly overpowering. My vast information resources suggest that 15-30HP is the range normally used for PPG’s. Probably you want to start at the lower end of that if you are just trying to get off the ground and have no prior PPG experience. See http://www.wikifaq.com/Powered_Paragliding_(PPG) and other goodly sources of information on the interweb. Also keep in mind that Cassandra herself has not and would not set foot in a PPG, as those things are death traps!
Q: Dear Cassandra, Why do you speak of yourself in the 3rd person? do you have ‘issues’?
A: Dear Reader, Good question! I was a bit flummoxed as the standard guides to English grammar indicate using the 1st person for people and 3rd person for gods. Being a demi god, what’s a poor girl to do? For our second consultation, you might consider that Cassandra is merely a convenient pseudonymous persona for a collection of individual authors. All of whom have serious, serious issues.
Q: Dear Cassandra, Why is there air?
A: Dear Reader, Look out your window a moment. What do you see? Cars. as far as the eye can see, these cars swarm over the landscape, a pestilence of metal and plastic machinery covered in a rounded colorful shell that doesn’t melt in anyone’s mouth. The motive power for these vehicles is supplied by fuel and air, it takes about 15 cubic meters of air to burn one liter of gasoline. World oil usage is around 80 billion barrels per day, this means about 6×1012 liters per year, which uses around 9×1013 cubic meters of air to burn it. Yes yes, all this math is mind-numbing but bear with me for a moment. How much air do we have? The earth’s diameter is around 12700km. Now, the density of air in the atmosphere goes down as you go up, so we’ll estimate that if you compacted the thinner air above us to all be at sea-level density, you’d have about 10km thick atmosphere. That yields about 5×1018 cubic meters of air in the atmosphere total. That’s it folks! So all this oil use is consuming about 1/50,000′th of the atmosphere every year (converting the oxygen part to CO2). Oh, but that was only for oil. What about coal and natural gas? Between those it’s 2x to 3x that amount. So over 50 years we’ll use about 1/300′th of the atmosphere (at current use rates). How much did you want to leave for your grandkids anyway? I hear that trees can convert some of that CO2 back to oxygen, do you think there will be any of them left? Well, to sum up if there wasn’t all this air around, we’d have run out long ago.
Q: Dear Cassandra, Can you explain the relationship between chip complexity and production cost over time?
A: Dear Reader, This relationship of yours is a very important one. At a basic level, the relationship is that it costs $1billion for the first chip, and $1 for each additional chip. It’s a good thing such economics don’t follow for the Backstreet Boys, or we’d have a billion of those too. Complexity in a chip means transistor count. Moore’s Law describes how this complexity changes over time, that is, it typically doubles in 18 months. There are similar laws describing the progress of other microelectronic devices, such as hard disk drive platter density and LED brightness. A commonly held misconception is that LED’s are vastly more efficient than other forms of lighting. It just isn’t so. Their efficiency only just exceeded incandecent bulbs around 2004. But they are improving following a rapid moore’s law, while incandescents have stagnated for 50 years, so LED lighting will take over the world shortly. Ok, back to the chips. The cost of each new generation of chip manufacturing plants keeps going up. It was around $1billion in 2000, it’s around $3billion now. Sooner or later, you won’t be able to make enough chips in a new plant to recover the construction cost. This will significantly slow the development of new generations of chip plants and cause the corresponding slowdown of moore’s law. As for the individual chips - just like software, movies and soda pop the vast majority of them just don’t sell very well. The first chip costs $1million to $1billion, but they don’t sell any more. That’s what you call ‘capital intensive product development’. I hear biotech can be even worse though. That’s *bio-tech*, not *beeyotch*. Beeyotch usually be less than $200/hour. So on average, do you think the successful chips make up for all the ones that didn’t sell? Turns out the sales from the few successful ones are just reinvested along with new capital into the next generation. Perhaps you had not realized that Investment Capitalism is a Ponzi scheme? Lets compare chips to some other investments. The first barrel of oil from a secured Iraq will cost the US at least $500billion (they are over $300billion so far, but based on spending it isn’t secured yet). Do you suppose that $500billion investment is going to be recovered? What else could $500billion have paid for? How about 200 brand new nuclear power plants - that would supply at least 40% of all US power (20% of US electrical power comes from the existing 100 nuclear plants). Some people think the Iraq war may end up costing $2 trillion. That’s more than enough to convert the US to 100% nuclear power, and these are conservative cost-per-plant estimates. Obviously you could buy quite a few solar cells instead too. How much does the US spend on alternative energy research? Less than $1billion per year. Perhaps a bit more would help reduce the need for these oil wars. Oh, and solar panels DO NOT require more energy to manufacture than they produce, that’s just more oil industry FUD. Solar panel energy recapture takes about 3 years currently, and will be down to half that in the near future according to NREL.
living at the edge, a weekend walk through the albany landfill sculpture park. a few creative souls inhabit the park, apparently living off the abundant tangy morsels we carefully plucked from their prickly caretakers.Â after some time we came upon a secluded tent marked with an omen: “don’t piss off the hermit, he speakes to god”. but a soulmate we found, his jumble of catameran bits stacked by his tent. a rumor had circulated that our own cat might be found - left at the beach as an homage to convenience and laissez-faire some months back. upon entry the hermit proved quite jovial and invited us to a party in some days time. the exterior of his hermitage did not hint at the wonders within - a full stone hottub in the roman style with inlaid tilework - all of his own make. after some discussion the hermit dashed off to locate a smoke, and we reflected in the tub (see above). what was to become of the boat? upon his return we made more direct queries, and soon we found our return hike slowed by a new beast of burden - our 7th catameran purchase in as many weeks. as usual, an entertaining time was had by all. storming the castle:
video: Nothin But Love
squid labs intern will bosworth lets it rip!
I’ve been seeing quite a lot of misconceptions recently about systems for capturing or generating power from humans. The primary misconception seems to be that you can somehow capture/generate a significant amount of power from some common action without otherwise affecting the person - in particular, that the person is somehow wasting a bunch of power, and a clever mechanism can capture it with no other ill effect. This is not the case! Extracting any significant power causes a correspondingly significant increase in the level of exertion required of the person. Evolution caused your body to optimize the amount of energy required to walk, run, etc - any body design which resulted in inefficient locomotion would have been selected against strongly. You also have an internal feedback system (your brain) that tells you how to optimize your motions by way of: “this feels more tiring than that”. Extracting energy mechanically from a person requires you to move your muscles, and only an insignificant amount of power would not be felt as a resistance to your muscle motion. For example, walking while generating a lot of power (via a hypethetical system that captured energy from a walking motion) would cause the motion to feel like walking in waist-deep water, or climbing a staircase. A typical diet-guide will tell you how much energy you are expending in normal activities. For example, walking burns around 200 Calories in an hour, or 233 watt-hours (0.23 kilo-watt-hours). If you wanted to extract an added 100 watt-hours to power your 100 watt lightbulb for that hour, your walking just got at least 50% harder (since the efficiency of the energy capture and conversion is well under 100%).
So, what can be done? One of two things: (a) a system that generates significant power, but requires similarly significant and obvious exertion by the person, or (b) a system that generates very small amounts of power, but requires no added exertion by the person. An example of (b) are fancy mechanical watches that wind their own spring through the random motion of the wearer’s arm while being worn. Both types are highly useful in many applications. What is not possible is: (c) a system that generates significant power, but requires no extra exertion by the person. Here I define “significant” as being of a magnitude comparable to the person’s nominal overall power output.
As a thought experiment, consider the hypothetical case of “The Matrix” where you are generating power solely from your heat output. Your temperature is 98 degrees, and you’re hooked to a heat engine (which generates power using the heat differential between you and a colder outdoors). What happens when you want to increase the power generated? it gets sucked out of you faster, and you get cold faster. if you’ve ever tried swimming for any period in cold water, you’re probably familiar with how hungry you are afterward - all your energy has been sucked out! So if you’re willing to tolerate being constantly cold and eating a lot, you can probably make a fair amount of power just sitting in the heat engine. unfortunately for efficiency reasons you’d probably need to be in a small enclosed compartment (like in The Matrix).Â Have fun in there!
I found a beautiful 3-foot snake in the grass yesterday at berkeley marina!Â it was quite docile despite the warm temperature and did not seem to have any complaint about my handling it.Â after watching so many snake-handler tv shows on animal planet, it just seems so easy!Â The interweb thinks this one is a Pacific Gophersnake.
what are these things!Â several “native” fruits from hawaii i got at a fruit stand (i’m in Kona this week for my cousin’s wedding).Â i’m not sure which if any are truly native (ie, before the polynesian colonization around AD1000).Â anyway, the top left is a large mango for scale.Â top right is a dragonfruit, have not eaten one yet.Â middle left is a cashew.Â the cashew fruit tastes sweet but also a little peppery, and the nut part can’t be eaten in the raw form.Â the green apple-looking thing is a ‘the’ i think?Â have not eaten that one yet.Â then is an avocado, normal type but all the ones i have seen here are gigantic, this one is bigger than a large mango but i’ve seen much bigger ones here.Â bottom row left is a loquat, then a ’snakefruit’?Â the snakefruit tastes a bit like when you mush up every type of starburst and eat them at once, but with the look and consistency of a raw garlic clove.Â then is the passionfruit and i forgot what the one on the bottom right is.
yesterday i went on a long and hilly (and fun!) ride with my friend christina and her friend anna. we biked through the city, over the golden gate and into the fog of the NoCal coastline. this is the bridge from the city side:
here is a funny seed-pod thing i found along the ride. what is it! and why is it! it is large, about 6cm diameter. the spikey bits are confusing because they are too soft to cause any hurtfulness if i was to try and eat it, and this area is very humid and rainy so i dont think they could be for grabbing dew like a cactus. and it is way too big to stick to my socks and get carried to a new better place like a burr. perhaps it is a newly evolved lifeform that is trying to make me so curious about it that i will pick it, take it home to look it up on the interwebs, and then sooner or later tire of it and toss it in my backyard where it will take root and spawn millions of new spiny brain-plants awaiting the careless drunken wanderings of my hapless reveling guests at a future gathering. or perhaps it will not await at all, but will take things into its own hands while i am passed out on the couch! i dub it: ‘the spiny brain plant of death’
on the way back over the bridge there was a big ship passing by. they put so much stuff on these things! each box is known as a container, and is the size of an 18-wheeler truck. this ship is carrying about 700 of them on the deck alone. i costed these out for a project last year, it costs about $2,000 to ship a loaded container from hong kong to san francisco, and takes about 2 weeks. this ship is taking all the empty’s back to hong kong for a refill. the containers seem stacked pretty high, it makes the ship look pretty top-heavy but i’m sure they know what they are doing. i wonder how many container-fulls it takes to supply one ikea or wal-mart for a year?
and here we are biking up a hill:
yesterday i took the interns and we went and fixed up the sculpture in its new location:
last night we held the IV’th squid salon - our ’show and tell for nerds’ event. turnout was around 100, with about 25 3-minute presentations. as usual the presentations ranged from ‘exploding stuff in microwave oven’ (actually that was last time) to ‘a novel method for inexpensive parallelized microchemistry experiments’ with quite a varienty of stops in between. things went quite smoothly this time due to the banning of powerpoint. there was an interesting presentation by a friend of ours who designed perhaps the most massive sculpture at burning man last year (at 50+ feet high and 50+ tons), he was seeking some help in resolving a slight problem they experienced with shearing of support bolts in their structure… there was not one but two novel devices for crimping pipes (for medical applications i think), a demo of a candle-powered toy boat from bangladesh, two different sound-responsive lasers (one like a kazoo and one for a drum), a funny program for your mac laptop that listens to the on-board accelerometer (which is normally used to detect when you’ve dropped the laptop) and lets you bonk the side of the laptop with your hand to switch between programs. the squid labs interns (yes, we are livin’ large, or at least in utter chaos, this summer) showed a couple of things they’ve been doing - a paint-ball cannon made from a pvc pipe and a shop-vac, and a kevlar laptop-case. i’m sure i’ve forgotten at least half the good stuff…
Jesse from the Open Prosthetics Project showed a lego-model of a novel prosthetic device they have developed:
the artist known as “dog” shows off his EL-Wire shorts, certainly one of the most skilled uses of el-wire that i have seen:
some very nice led-based fire-dancer type devices were shown (conveniently on our trampoline):
a convenient paper-less music holder for bandies playing in heavy wind:
my friend rocky tries out a pair of goggles which blinks in a very simple way, but when you close your eyes your brain causes you to see very complex patterns that aren’t really there: