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Cosplay Done Properly February 28, 2011

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Photography, Toys.
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My step-daughter (by previous marriage) had a lovely costume of Lara Croft that she would wear for no particular reason.


Still, the woman below has finally outdone her:


I mean, fit is important in these things, but setting is so critical.

Snow Day February 23, 2011

Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorizable.
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Snow day

About every twenty years it snows in San Francisco.  This Friday could be one of those rare occasions, according to the weather shamans.  I look forward to icy creativity.


From my favorite blogger, Dan Piraro:


Buy his stuff, cartooning for a living is not lucrative.

Exciting update: yep, there was snow.


There was also a fabulous sunset (click on the image for the panorama):pano Mt. Tamalpais peak at sunset

Another Victory for Pure Science February 22, 2011

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Science.
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Dr Dominic Fortes of the University College London discovered that, when heated at room pressure, methanol monohydrate crystals would expand in one dimension but would shrink in the other two dimensions and would expand in two dimensions and shrink in one when heated (“negative linear compressibility”, in geekspeak). This is just the sort of material needed to make nanomachine switches, which is a pretty hot topic among the far-thinkers in the material science labs around the world who are going to create the miracles of tomorrow.  There are just a few substances which can do this (fifteen is the last number I heard, but no sources cited, so…).

Dr. Fortes was studying the ice volcanoes on Triton, to explain the icy eruptions seen by passing spacecraft. See?  Total blue-sky stuff pays off.

The full text is here, with lovely graphs and charts and science-y stuff that most people won’t bother with (me included).

Cascade Falls February 21, 2011

Posted by stuffilikenet in Photography.
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Outside the little town of Fairfax in Marin County there are a bunch of hiking trails catering to soccer moms, dogs kids and the brown rice set.  Being card-carrying members of the latter, the missus and I drove to the end of the street and hiked the gentle slopes (mostly gentle) of the watershed, enjoying the hanging moss (looks like Spanish moss to me, but what do I know?),


the stranger fungi,


the delightful streams (click each below for the Autostitched panorama),

pano of a nice stream

and the near-glorious (hey, it’s only about 75 feet high) Cascade Falls.

pano  of cascade falls

The moss growing on the sides of these trees you see is about three inches thick. And hey, does anybody know the name of this plant?

what is this

P.S.:  Stay on the trail; otherwise you might pick up hitchhikers like this tick who rode with me for a day:


Poor Helpless Creature February 15, 2011

Posted by stuffilikenet in Japan, Photography, Publishing Tools.
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It’s PhotoShopped, but the little guy looks purrfectly forlorn.

Optimism February 15, 2011

Posted by stuffilikenet in Publishing Tools, Uncategorizable.
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Agile development is a software project development method (and other types of business activities, as well) which organizes small, efficient groups around short-term goals like making a working software product on a (say) two-week cycle.  The included software features are usually expressed as “user stories”.

burn-down chart1

This is a burn-down chart for the user stories of one of my company’s newest products…and this image is an excellent way to find out if anyone I work with reads my little blog, as I could catch hell for this (note the careful use of the blur tool above).

Golden Gate Bridge from the Presidio February 12, 2011

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Photography, Publishing Tools.
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pano of Golden Gate from Presidio, better version


WordPress.com does not allow the widget, so click on the photo above.

TV Screen Size Calculator February 12, 2011

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Toys, Video.
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My friend Ben Lie Ben Lie tricked up this calculator to help him choose a big-screen television.


It‘s quite nifty, allowing the user to compare the three different aspect ratios on sale these days and showing the actual dimensions based on the advertised diagonal screen size.  It even shows you the optimal viewing distance by three different methods, so you can truly pick the best set for your in-room experience..or at least learn where to put the sofa.

I vaguely remember mentioning this need to him last year when I was shopping, so I will take credit for the silly idea but not his awesome execution.

Good job, Ben.


EXCITING UPDATE: I made a version of this for Android phones, so you can take it with you to the big box store and check it out before buying.  It’s in the Google Play store and it looks something like this:


It’s just as basic as Ben’s is, but at least it’s portable.

EXCITING UPDATE #2: version 1.1 looks like the above, but with one additional resolution.

Crabfu da Vinci February 6, 2011

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I met Crabfu at the 2006 Maker Fair when he showed off two or three of his steam-powered RC vehicles (although they have some automatic features, none are self-guided therefore not robots in my book):


The two above are just adorable and the definition of steampunk.  The real star is Crabfu himself, however.  He is an animator and artist doing mostly videogame work (as I understand), and his creations come from that same art-imitates-life paradigm as the works of da Vinci.  Take the humble Allomyrhina dichotomus:


The Crabfu version looks like something that da Vinci would have scribbled and left in a notebook to be wowed over by modern scholars:

I love the little wings.  For those same modern scholars, here’s a bit of his design notebook for a steam rowboat, something da Vinci probably would have gotten around to eventually:


He probably wouldn’t have used orange plastic oars, but otherwise, it looks very da Vinciesque to me.


A number of other early steam (and more primitive) vehicles are shown here, but visit crabfu.com for a much fuller exploration of his genius.

I saved the best and strangest for last:

Comparisons to da Vinci’s helicopter are so twentieth century.

Delightful Diversions February 6, 2011

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Octopus, Photography.
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The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss is a beautiful coffee-table book consisting of two hundred photos of extraordinary critters of the benthic persuasion.  I will only show octopi, since they are among my favorite creatures, but you can see from the photosglowing sucker octopus (stauroteuthis syrtensis)

the quality of the images is splendid (and remember, these are the crappy low-resolution web-available images).  In terms of crowd-pleasing, this book has done pretty well: on Amazon it is rated five stars with eighty-one reviewers.telescope octopus (Amphitreus pelagicus)

The trouble with such an enterprise is, of course, our stunning ignorance of the vasty deep.  What the hell is this?What the hell is this

A Logical Extension February 6, 2011

Posted by stuffilikenet in Hello Kitty.
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hello kitty doc martens Sorry, but I forget where I found this.  It does look Photoshopped, which is a pretty high compliment, really.

Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre February 5, 2011

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Brilliant words.
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As a closeted history geek, I think I should warn the normals away from Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal.  It reads like a spy thriller, yet almost all of it is quotes from official sources, first-hand recollections of the participants or at least second-hand remembrances.  It’s first-rate historical scholarship largely from official declassified MI5 documents, and it’s deeply pleasant to read.  Normals, be warned:  if you read this, you might develop a taste for history books.  Once you start down this path, forever will it guide your literary destiny.

I devoured this as an audiobook (Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal, Narrated By John Lee, 9 Cds [Complete & Unabridged Audio Work] ) over the course of my commute (four or so days), but found myself dawdling in the parking lot a lot longer than usual, just for the pleasure of it all.  John Lee’s reading is very sympathetic and adds a lot to the experience

Agent Zigzag was Eddie Chapman, a charming rogue who seduced and blackmailed middle-class Englishwomen (and possibly men), blew open the occasional safe and was due for a fourteen-year prison sentence. Imprisoned but about to be released from a Jersey jail for a lesser offense he was saved from English justice by the timely invasion of Jersey by the Germans in the early part of their war with England.  The local authorities released Chapman and left him to his own devices.

Given the nature of his character, that could have been a terrible mistake.

And it looks bad for Chapman when he offered to spy for the Germans.  They eventually took him up on it and trained him in sabotage, finally parachuting him into England to sabotage the de Havilland Mosquito bomber plant. He went straight to the authorities and offered to double-cross his German spymaster, whom he had come to regard as a friend.

There’s a great deal more than this to the story, but I will not tell; go read this book (unless you want to stay normal).  It’s a delightfully complicated tale and well told.  I really do recommend the audiobook, and much less the inaccurate but entertaining movie loosely based on him Triple Cross with Christopher Plummer, whom I expect to start singing “Eidelweiss’” at any moment (but there is an excellent bit at the end where Yul Brynner commits suicide with charming aplomb).