Archive for April, 2006

The Over Saturation of Nature

Sunday, April 30th, 2006
Ice Plant
Ice Plant

I had a walk around the neighborhood and in the community garden with camera in hand. The colors of the flowers in the bright sun was just truly stunning. Blindingly bright, super saturated, colors everywhere.

California Poppies

On the right are couple of ice plants. On the left is a California poppy. It is such a bright intense orange that it almost looks like glowing coals.

I also caught some Johnny Jump Ups and an incredibly Yellow Iris.

The colors in all of the shots are as encountered; I didn’t do anything other than drop the brightness just a tad.

Maker Faire: Bug Bots

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

Make’s weblog has an article about the Microsoft bug bots.

They were really quite cool. I got some great macros of ’em.

Update: They are called “photovores” and Zayne’s Dad was kind enough to post a link to an awesome do it yourself guide to building one. I really like the freeform construction technique. All the components are hot glued together, using their leads and the circuit itself to provide structural integrity.

Tiny Robot -- BugBotTiny Robot -- BugBot
Tiny Robot -- BugBotTiny Robot -- BugBot

A Day Without A Mexican

Friday, April 28th, 2006

In 2004, Sergio Arau directed and release A Day Without A Mexican. It is a pretty good movie where all of the latino population disappears in California. Chaos and comedy ensues.

Now, it appears that Life is about to mimic Art.

Personally, I don’t think most of the population has any idea how reliant the United States is upon immigrant labor. Looking at the food chain, everything from New York’s top restaurants to the behemoth meat packing plants to many of the fresh veggies at the farmer’s market or in the grocery store all rely upon immigrant, often latino and often paid well below minimum wage, labor.

Monday has the potential to be a very interesting day.

Told ya so…

Friday, April 28th, 2006

I’m not one to often say “I told you so”, but…

I told ya so.

It took a relatively minor revision to the proposed law for BoingBoing/Cory to finally figure out how terribly nasty for the consumer the french law truly is.

The funny part is that the revisions aren’t really much different from the version that Cory sorta-kinda supported a couple of months ago.

This should come as no surprise to anyone. It was, after all, jokingly referred to as the “Universal-Vivendi” law…

As much as I like this whole “weblogs are the new press” thing that is going on, I really wish the reporters/writers would do just a smidgen of research before flying off the handle (this is directed less at Cory/BB and more at CNet, Wired News, and several other “news” organizations that published “factual stories” that even the most basic of research would reveal as totally wrong).

Update: Cory called me on this. Thank you.

BoingBoing has had various articles and followups that illuminate the stupidity quite nicely (see his comment for links — note that most of them were written in response to a prior proposal by France).

This is the article I was responding to in my original post and, specifically, what I wrote above was intended to poke fun at this statement:

The French Parliament is considering a law that would force music-lockware companies like Apple and Microsoft to license their anti-copying software to other companies, so that customers who bought crippled music could play it on other vendors’ players.

This is a good step, but for me, it leaves the big question hanging: will Apple and Microsoft have to license their players to free and open source software authors? The problem is that anti-copying software always comes with a licensing condition that requires implementors to design their players so that users can’t modify them. It’s like requiring everyone who licenses your internal combustion engine design to weld the hood shut.

What wasn’t so fun were the plethora of articles like this one that barely touched on the real issues and this rather fanciful editorial claiming that France was going to save civilization through said law. Only the Linux community (relatively new article that is similar to the ones from the same time the original story was posted) really seemed to have picked up on the true details of the law because it so effectively threatens the viability of open source software development.

That such seemingly reputable news agency and editorialists would praise a very small part of the overall law without indication as to the destruction of personal rights that it carries with it is irresponsible and does a disservice to the reader. Or, more importantly, a disservice to the reader’s readers.

Technology news is like a game of telephone where the players are ordered by ability to parrot what they hear. By the time you get to Fox News or CNN, there seems to be no attempt to verify facts or to understand the claims made in the context of the whole.

As this whole “are bloggers journalists?” debate rages on, I think those who want to be treated as a weblogging journalist should consider long and hard how their statements are interpreted by the masses that are not steeped in the same knowledge that they possess.

Makers Faire: Pinball Stats

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006
Addams Family Playfield

I took two fully restored pinball machines to the Maker Faire over the weekend. One was a Dr. Who (with translite sadly left behind at my friend’s house) and the other was an Addams Family Special Collectors Edition.

The Addams Family was really the showcase for restoration. When I purchased the machine, the playfield was black with grime, 2 of the 4 flippers didn’t work, none of the lamps worked (couldn’t see ’em through the grime anyway), many rubber rings were broken, and the display was on the way to dead.

When I set the machines up at the Faire, I reset the audits on Addams Family so that I could capture an accurate set of statistics as to how many folks played, average scores, features exercised, game times, etc…

Summary: A lot of people played a lot of games, but very few people understood the depth of the modes or rules. Not surprising and I was ecstatic to see so many kids totally get into playing pinball!

Actually, funny thing. This morning my Addams Family was complaining that a number of switches were clearly broken as they hadn’t been triggered in some large number of consecutive games. Turns out that no one at MF on Sunday actually hit a ball in the vault or made Thing pick up the ball.

Full audits below. Some of the audits can be better understood in the context of the full rules of the game.

The audits are slightly skewed due to the one game I played during the weekend; I put up a 2 billion point game that included 3 tours of the mansion, around 8 extra balls, and well over 200 bear kick ramp hits. Best game I have played in years.

There were 352 games started with 318 total games played completely. 13 percent of the games earned a total of 42 extra balls. There were 11 matches awarded.

Bookcase in Motion

The machine was on for a total of 16 hours and in play for 11 hours of that.

There were 994 balls played of which 156 drained down the right outlane and 62 exited via the left. The remaining 776 exited straight down the middle.

The left flipper was activated 15,812 times while the right flipper fired 18,610 times.

Of the games, 198 (62%) successfully opened the bookcase while 33 (10%) games managed to start multiball. I was the only person to start a 2nd and 3rd multiball in a single game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Makers Faire Day 2

Monday, April 24th, 2006
Popping Balloons

Makers Faire Day 2 proved to be even more entertaining and thought provoking that Day 1. Early on, I ran into Duncan who was photo-documenting the faire. I tagged along and helped with the photo process as I could and he let me have a play with his flash-on-a-wire. Gotta get me one of those.

We also dropped into the high speed photography lab and popped a bunch of balloons. It was awesome. Upon conclusion, we both immediately picked up a high speed photography kit. Here is the same shot taken from the dead on position by the tripod mounted camera from the Quaketronics guys. And a shot of me popping a balloon.

Tiny Robot -- BugBot

The Microsoft guys pulled out their bugbots and let ’em run around outside in the sun for a bit (sun? Wow! That is new around here!). They were ultra cool little compact ‘bots that used a little bit of solar power to move around in highly bursty, kind of buggy, ways. Neat stuff!

All in all, Makers Faire was an incredibly inspiring show. The looks on all the kids faces as they made cool stuff was the best of all; a whole new generation of creatives ready to make the world their own.

Playing Gigi

I have a long list of todo items now, for sure. It starts with finishing off the Cyclone, putting together the high speed photography kit (and extending it a bit — making it my own), and several other ideas that are now rattling around, begging for attention.

So, thanks to Tim, Dale, and the whole crew. You guys just pulled off one hell of a good show!

Makers Faire Photos

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006
Steam Powered Robot

I am using the “makers faire” tag to tag all of my makers faire photos. I have also created a set in chronological order.

Amazing place. I’m off for another day of cool stuff.

Makers Faire Day 1

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006
Lawnmower Bike

I am exhausted. More mentally than physically.

After hauling a Dr. Who and Addams Family pinball machine up to the Makers Faire this morning, I spent the day being absolutely overwhelmed by technology, creativity, and incredibly smart people.

The Make folks have nailed it.

Printed Metal

At every turn, there is something new, different, amazing, beautiful, or just plain unique to dive into and try to understand. The emphasis is on “hands on” or “learn and go do”. Pick up a conversation with anyone and you are guaranteed to learn something.

And it isn’t just about cutting edge, high technology, or uber expensive. By and large, the makers make do with whatever they have. In between things built with of the most high tech materials and methodologies, you will find a simple and elegant use of everyday things to yield surprising results.

Roger and Christine came up to check out the show. They had a blast. There is an entire room full of old printers, VCRs, and other electronics stuff. And tools. As an attendee, you are expected to rip stuff apart and build new stuff. Roger and I ripped a part a VCR, grabbed a couple of printer parts and made a spinning thing that had Roger’s name on it.

Sums Up The Whole Show

Really, this picture sums up the look on many folk’s faces. Happy in learning of all of the amazing and creative things unfolding around them.

Net downloads driving concert prices higher?

Friday, April 21st, 2006

The BBC has posted an article which loosely correlates increased concert ticket prices with decreased album sales due to internet based piracy.

Of course, various folks have grabbed on to this story and making totally wild claims. “InterWebs Piracy is Killing Artists!!” or “Internet Downloads Are Teh B3ST THANG EVAR!!!11!1111”.

What a total crock of crap. I’m sure the RIAA will jump on this and milk it for all it is worth.

There are three major flaws with the whole line of reasoning.

First, and as mentioned (sort of) in the article, it isn’t just Concert tickets that are shooting through the roof. Sporting event and other entertainment events are also way up, too. Last time I checked, it was pretty damned difficult to download next Sunday’s big game on Pirate Bay.

Secondly, and also as the article mentions (without actually telling the full story), very very few musical artists have ever made any kind of real money off of album sales. This has always been the case. Just look at the margins at the iTunes Music Store; the RIAA walks away with 66+ cents on the dollar of every song sold, only pennies of which go to the artist (actually, to the exploitation contract — yes, “exploit” is what they call it). And, yet, that isn’t enough.

Outside of the superstars or supergroups, artists that want to make money in the music biz have always had to do so through touring, touring, and more touring.

Finally, the most damnable flaw of the claim is the total lack of acknowledging simple supply and demand.

The article specifically calls out Madonna’s upcoming tour as an example of skyrocketing ticket prices.

Madonna is a superstar. Every show she plays will be sold out. That is, every single show on this tour will run out of a supply of tickets before demand has been met.

Las time I checked, Madonna still likes money. Regardless of her hypocritical claims otherwise (what a crock! “Now that I have so much money I even gave my child aged daughter a $10,000/month credit card, I have decided money is evil… now where is my butler, my hand picked tibetan mountain berry blessed tea is a bit cold”), she really likes having lots of money and wants more of it.

Is it any surprise that ticket prices would be skyrocketing in a situation where there is vastly more demand than supply? Madonna makes more money. Her management & touring company makes more money. The artists on tour with her [might] make more money. The venue makes more money. This is every capitalists dream situation.

Same goes for U2, Rolling Stones, David Bowie and every other artist mentioned in that article.

I saw that Eddie Money was playing at a nearby bar. $25 cover at the door. I’d bet Eddie would love to see tickets for his show go for $325. Wrong end of the supply/demand equation, unfortunately…

Leg of Lamb

Sunday, April 16th, 2006
Infused Leg of Lamb
Infused Leg Of Lamb

In celebration of Easter, this weekend’s Big Green Egg experiment will be a leg of lamb. I have infused the lamb with puréed rosemary, garlic, and red wine using a very large hypodermic needle. It’ll sit for a bit and then on to the Big Green Egg it will go for at least a few hours of grilling at low temperatures.

This should be interesting.

Update: OK. Yeah. “Interesting” does not do it justice.

I ended up cooking the lamb on the BGE for almost 3 hours. It started at 330 degrees over a bed of mesquite charcoal with hickory chips and a big chunk of rosemary sitting on the coals. From there, I dropped the temperature to 200 degrees and let it slow cook for nearly 2 hours. As the internal temperature closed in to 100 degrees, I dropped the egg’s temperature to around 170-180 degrees to slow the cooking down a bit such that the lamb would be ready when our guests arrived (and not before).

The end result was the juiciest, most tender, smoky lamb I have ever had. The garlic/rosemary/wine infusion imparted an amazing flavor and color to the meat near the bone while the rosemary/hickory smoke gave an intense flavor to the outer meat.