Archive for September, 2005

Swallowtail Caterpillar & Chrysalis

Friday, September 30th, 2005
Swallowtail Caterpillar/Chrysalis

Not much to say. I just really like the way this photo turned out and wanted to share it.

The veggie at the bottom is a Really Gigantic Zucchini Like Gourd Thing from the inherited garden plot. It made a good stand for the stick.

There is a third chrysalis on that particular stick, just above the top caterpillar.

Brain Surgery

Wednesday, September 28th, 2005

This guy photoblogged his own open brain surgery (consider that a warning for the faint of heart). He had a tumor on the surface of his brain that required full-on open brain surgery to repair.

Very cool in two ways; the surgery was successful and, well, it is open brain surgery.

In high school, I spent the day with a friend’s father for career day (I had spent a number of days with my own father at his workplace and we agreed that I should take the opportunity to branch out). He was one of the top brain surgeons and researchers in the country.

While “on the job”, I suited up and spent the afternoon in an operating room while a patient had a tumor removed from the middle of his head. The photo series linked above was of a relatively non-invasive surgery. What I witnessed involved effectively tearing a hole through the brain tissue into the center of the skull to remove a golf ball sized tumor.

While inside the head, the doctor’s used a set of electrodes to manually stimulate different muscle groups. This was both to verify various theories of neurophysiology and to verify that the patient’s brain still worked as expected.

It was an incredible experience. Almost incredible enough to make me pursue a medical career, but not quite enough to desire dealing with the incredible legal morass of stupidity that our “modern” health care system has degenerated into.

Flower Photos

Sunday, September 25th, 2005
Bee Doing That Bee Thing Detail

On the left is a picture of a bee pollinating a plant that I took in the community garden yesterday. Roger found the plant as it was completely covered in thousands of really tiny bee like insects and several dozen honey bees like the one pictured.

I have been pretty good about tagging the photos that I upload to Flickr. So, it is pretty easy to grab a set of photos based on a particular tag.

My family gets a kick out of that.

Beyond Flickr, I found some really neat plant photo sites. The University of California, Berkeley has the CalPhotos: Plants project that contains 59,000+ photos of plants found in California.

The University of British Columbia has the Botany Photo of the Day site. Neat photos and interesting text, too. It also features an Atom (RSS like) feed.

Packaging….

Sunday, September 25th, 2005
Hollyhock Seed Pod

To the right is a picture of the seed pod of a hollyhock plant. Any given flower stock may have upwards of a couple of hundred of these pods with each pod containing about a hundred or so seeds.

I like the way they are nicely packed into a tight little circle. Note also that the seed pod sort of bursts open from the middle out, losing bits of the wrapping skin as the seed head dries out.

Swallowtail Butterfly Larvae

On the left is a picture of five swallowtail butterfly caterpillars eating parsley. Basically, five voracious little gift wrapped butterflies.

One package’s contents dry up and blows away. The other package eats, poops, and eventually the contents fly away.

Cory jerks his knee again.

Saturday, September 24th, 2005

Cory Doctorow knee jerks at iTunes today:

(of course, every iTunes user whose iTunes tracks have been downgraded by an iTunes patch knows this already — Apple won’t give you back your $0.99 even when they decide to take away some of the value you paid for when you put your money down).

Throughout the history of iTunes, you can burn all music purchased from the store to a standard audio CD. If you burn, say, Green Day’s American Idiot to a standard CD using iTunes, you end up with a copy of American Idiot that is very close to identical to what you could purchase in a store.

Furthermore, Apple didn’t actually take anything away. The # of times you could burn anyone playlist was reduced from 10 to 7, but that is a limitation on the playlist, not the song. Change the playlist, burn another 7 times. At the same time, Apple upped the # of computers that the songs could be shared between.

To summarize: Once you burn tracks purchased from iTMS to a CD, no one — not Apple, not the RIAA, not the thought police — can take away your ability to play the burned CD on any standard CD player.

The same holds true for any of the other stores that allow burning to a regular CD (I haven’t checked which do. Some do, some don’t. Some have whack-ass DRM that only allows burning of some songs, not others).

Sure, Apple could choose the path of darkness and completely bone the consumer, thus destroying Apple’s hold on the market. So could just about every other company in the world that sells goods and services. Sony could only allow games to be played a dozen times. Movie theaters could play movies out of focus so they couldn’t be pirated. Software companies could require subscriptions for their standalone wares.

But they don’t. Why? Because companies are in business to make money and being evil does not make money. Monopolies, of course, change the rules.

This is very different than the current uproar over TiVo. Cory
posted
an otherwise excellent summary of how wrong the DRM is, in that case. Of course, this isn’t entirely TiVo’s fault. Oh, crap, I already responded to another Cory Post about this way back in January of 2004:

So, TiVo walks a fine line and has been doing so very well. Witness ReplayTV (who? Gone.). They threw the 30 second skip and content distribution in the face of the broadcasters and the end result was the complete lack of strategic partnerships and the eventual death [twice] of the platform.

Unfortunately, Cory’s ongoing knee-jerk response to DRM, the RIAA, etc.. does more to hurt the cause than help it. Unfortunately, the EFF isn’t going to be receiving a donation from me anytime soon.

Gin Margherita

Saturday, September 24th, 2005
Gin Margherita

Introducing the Gin Margherita. Yes, that kind of Margherita.

Ingredients:

  • Gin. Bombay Sapphire or, even better, Citadelle Gin.
  • Heirloom Tomato. The juicier and more flavorful, the better.
  • Fresh Basil. Lemon Basil is even better.
  • Fresh Cucumber. Ideally, use Lemon Cucumbers.
  • Ice and Water or Soda Water
  • 16oz glass

    Preparation:

  • Crush the basil leaves into the glass
  • Cut a slice of tomato, quarter if necessary, and add to the glass
  • Cut a slice of cucumber, quarter if necessary, and add to the glass
  • Add 2 to 4 ounces of gin to the glass. Let sit for a couple of minutes, stirring gently a few times.
  • Add ice; 2 to 4 cubes
  • Top off with fresh water (good water only!) or soda water

The resulting drink is extremely refreshing. At the end, there are some tasty marinated veggies to eat.

Yum.

Unit Testing.

Saturday, September 24th, 2005

Yeah, I can’t avoid this one.

Wil Shipley wrote a great article about his opinions of unit testing. Of course, the community response has been the fairly typical “He’s all wrong” / “He’s totally right” extremes.

Whatever. I would rather relay an anecdote.

As Duncan wrote, we used OCUnit to unit test Core Data. I integrated OCUnit into the Core Data project within a few weeks of the first lines of code being written. The experience was so positive that we decided to integrate OCUnit into Xcode (A huge note of thanks to the Sen:Te folks) and released the result at WWDC ’05 in Xcode 2.1.

Core Data 1.0 is not perfect, but it is a rock solid product that I’m damned proud of. The quality and performance achieved could not have been done without the use of unit testing. Furthermore, we were able to perform highly disruptive operations to the codebase very late in the development cycle. The end result was a vast increase in performance, a much cleaner code base, and rock solid release.

During the development cycle, we saw nearly zero regressions. And, of course, Core Data was developed on top of and along with Tiger. That is, we were frequently running in a highly unstable environment. Time and again, the Core Data unit testing caught problems that we are actually in components below Core Data.
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Backup 3.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

BackUp icon

Apple released BackUp 3.0 yesterday.

I have been testing BackUp 3 for a while and it has saved my ass twice now. So far, it has worked flawlessly both for making backups to hard drive and burning DVDs. I backup my FileVault’d home account to an encrypted sparse disk image once a week and also back up the same to DVDs.

I have also backed up my music collection — all 90GB — to DVD. That took a while. I would suggest a fast DVD burner.

Now, of course, a BackUp only matters if you can successfully restore from the backup set! Unfortunately, I have had to test that particular feature a couple of times. Fortunately, it worked flawlessly. Once was because of filesystem corruption and the other was because of an errant “rm -rf”.

Bottom line: BackUp 3.0 is just plain awesome. Sure, there are some improvements that could be made, but nothing catastrophically broken within my workflow (I don’t like that you have to have enough free space on your boot volume to create a disk image for the purposes of burning).

If I didn’t already have a .mac account, I would pay for a .mac account in a heartbeat just for BackUp.

Mystery Veg Identified: Balsam Pear

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005
Mystery Fruit or Vegetable

The mystery fruit has been identified!

Daniel Jalkut suggested that it looked like this photo claiming to be a Balsam Apple. I think the photo is mislabeled and this is actually a Balsam Pear or Bitter Gourd.

Mystery Fruit or Vegetable

This difference appears to be important as the Balsam Apple is toxic while the Balsam Pear / Bitter Gourd can be cooked and eaten. I hope I find another gourd on the vine as I’m looking forward to tasting it.

That’s “Dr. Tequila”, Thanks.

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005
Ninja PHD Diploma

I barely passed the written testing portion of my ongoing education in Tequila. As of Sunday, I am now a Doctor of Tequila.

Wilfredo Sanchez successfully received his master’s (degree before the PHD that I just received) last Wednesday. Adam Swift and Ben Holt both received their masters last night.

Next up? I have to go to Mexico with Julio to tour the areas where Tequila is made. Should be amazing.