Archive for June, 2006

Affirmation through Spamming?

Friday, June 16th, 2006

In the past couple of weeks, the comment spam on my weblog has gone through the roof. Akismet— a truly awesome bit of software– is deleting more than 100 bits of spam a day. Since moving to Akismet (WordPress 2), it has killed over 7,300 spammy comments.

The spammers, of course, attempt to circumvent spam filters by changing the content of their posts. By leaving moderation for unknown users turned on, what does get through ends up in a queue and is quickly filtered out.

There are bursts where spam gets through akismet. Initially interesting, but in particular bad bursts (like recently) it can be very annoying as upwards of 30 to 50 messages per day hit a moderation queue that is rarely more than 2 messages deep.

Yet, at times, the spam does entertain. This was dropped in the moderation queue yesterday.

The comment spam I receive is usullly some kind of affirmation that what I am doing is good, right, informational and funny.

Kinda makes me feel good! I like my comment spam!

Like a mediocre joke, such messages are only humorous once. Fortunately, Akismet will very shortly ensure that I never see it again.

Of course, this isn’t nearly as entertaining as it would be to see every spammer choked by the wires of their own internet connection. Or, more humanely, how about making each spammer read every word of every spam they have sent before they are given another meal? Too nice an end for such scum.

Paper Wasps

Thursday, June 15th, 2006
Paper Wasps on Rosemary

Roger has an amazing knack for finding bugs and other living things. We had a meeting in a conference room at school and he found a black widow in the corner. He regularly finds the tiniest praying mantises I have ever seen and his pill bug collection is gigantic.

Today, he insisted on showing me a wasp nest he had found. It is in that photo. Right in the middle, in fact. Not sure how he found it in the first place…

Paper Wasps on Rosemary

Of course, I grabbed the 100mm macro lens and snapped a few photos. It is a common misconception that wasps (and bees) are inherently mean. They really aren’t. Quite sociable, really, given that I was shoving a massive (by their standards) piece of glass in their faces while moving the bush a bit here and there.

This second picture is the first shot upon approach to the nest. The wasps are in a fairly neutral posture. Hanging out on the nest, relatively relaxed.

The end of this post has some more specific information on their societal habits and species.

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Fun with Disposable Cameras

Sunday, June 11th, 2006
Hard Drive Platter Meets Pinball

Ben and I had fun with the disposable camera flash units; both using the sound/light trigger and just ripping into the cameras and playing with the caps directly.

The first shot is of a pinball being dropped on a hard drive platter. 2.5″ hard drive platters are sometimes made of glass. Totally blown out exposure. Looks pretty cool, but I think I could do better, I’m just out of platters about now (and cleaning up glass shards is unpleasant).


The obligatory water splash…

Had to do it. It is actually a hard drive platter being dropped in a plate of water. Has potential. I need to use a colored water and possibly adjust the flash position.

The splash in the middle is actually water being ejected through the hole in the middle of the drive platter.

Catastrophic Transistor Failure

Apparently, disposable flash mechanisms don’t really like it when you start discharging the cap through things other than the flash tube. Like, discharging it through one of the transistors on the board.

Magic smoke got out, board work no more. But the capacitor did. So we pulled it and charged it off another board.

Rings Disturbed

A slice of time so small that it makes a moment of peace prior to the metal bits flying everywhere. Sounded cool, too.

Capacitor Discharge

And, of course, when futzing with charged capacitors, there is also the obligatory spark photo…

A tale of two disposable cameras…

Sunday, June 11th, 2006
Camera Dissection 4

I dropped by a couple of local businesses and ended up with a bag full of used disposable cameras. The cameras are truly disposable; generally tossed or sent back to a company for some amount of recycling. The cameras are chock full of flashy goodness that can be used in quite a number of projects, including high speed photography, of course.

It seems that the disposable camera market is dominated by two manufacturers, Kodak (on left) and Fujifilm (on right). The Quaketronics kit includes a Kodak disposable and, upon disassembly of both, it is abundantly clear why (though apparently coincidental).

Camera Dissection 7

Even before cracking the case, there are signs that these are two different beasts. The Fujifilm has a flash switch while the Kodak has a momentary button for charging the flash, thus implying significant differences in the electronics. While opening, the difference in industrial design is immediately obvious. The Kodak’s back is easily popped off by releasing tabs on all four sides. On the other hand, the Fujifilm camera has five or six tiny tabs with an almost-removable-but-not-quite piece over the battery.

Significantly more, including a nice “don’t touch this with your finger” demonstration upon click through…
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Amazing Collection of Grills

Friday, June 9th, 2006

I saw an inbound link to my weblog and followed it back to a story I had commented on a while ago. It was about the 10 coolest BBQ grills in the world.

The story has expanded considerably. Many many grills pictured and described, including some absolutely beautiful minimalistic modern designs.

Neat stuff.

New Pixar Movie: Ratatouille

Friday, June 9th, 2006

The trailer for Pixar’s 2007 movie– Ratatouille — is up (and plays at the beginning of Cars). A movie about fine dining and rodents… sounds perfect!

It looks just stunning in HD on a cinema display!

The animation is gorgeous.

Baked Sole

Thursday, June 8th, 2006

This is a simple recipe for the benefit of archival via Google. My family is bugging me to archive recipes as I cook ’em. What better way to archive such things than through a weblog with Google as an index?

As I have previously mentioned, our local farmer’s market has awesome fresh fish. A couple of weeks ago, my wife picked up some sole and I dredged it through a dish of flour, salt, and pepper, then fried it up in some butter. Excellent and easy, but not the healthiest result.

We picked up a bunch of Sole again this week and I called my mom to ask her how we cooked sole when she was here. This is what she relayed:

– glaze a cookie sheet with a very light coating of butter

– place filets of sole on the cookie sheet, evenly spaced

– lightly sprinkle salt, fresh ground pepper, olive oil and lemon juice over the top

– toss in a preheated 400 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes (until the fish is white through and flaky — but do not overcook!)

Dead simple recipe that produces very yummy fish every time. Very healthy, too, as you really don’t know to use more than a touch of butter and oil.

I cooked enough for several meals. It is quite tasty minced over wild rice or a fresh spring greens salad with heirloom tomatoes. A touch of balsamic vinegar on the salad version puts it over the top.

Update: Just baked this for dinner this evening. Skip the lemon juice; isn’t necessary if you have really good fresh sole. I served it over the top of mixed greens and spread a bit of fresh salsa over the top. Very tasty. Christine loved it, too.

Visual Hub; software with a sense of humor.

Thursday, June 8th, 2006

I have the occasional need to “normalize” a chunk of video into some form that can be played on a particular device, often either an iPod video or burned to a DVD. I have tangled with a mish-mosh of various random programs and have generally been extremely disappointed.

I had used iSquint in the past; used it to drop a bunch of video on the iPod for entertaining Roger — 5 years old — on a vacation trip. I ran across a notice that there was an updated version available and, upon clicking through, also noticed that the developer has a commercial version called Visual Hub available.

The manual is available online and it is a damned fine read. Beyond giving precise and concise instructions as to the use of the app, it is funny and offers a brief bit of history behind each video format that actually adds to the understanding of the app!

Naah… let me rephrase the above.

I just ponied up $23.32 for a license to this software because the software works exactly as expected and out of pure entertainment value:

(1) The software just works. It works in default mode, it works when you screw around with the advanced preferences… it just works. (well… see below… I can break it, but I’m not sure if it is VH’s fault.)

(2) The software… the manual… the whole package is damned entertaining. Seriously. There is humor with a point throughout.

… on the price: “$23.32 … justify it by thinking of the cost per frame.”

… the license:

A user may install the software and license on their home and personal work computer.
Your uncle Phil from Oregon is not in the same household as you. The cute girl in Accounting’s computer is not your personal work computer.

… the manual: contains poignant quotes throughout and the Appendix is brilliant!

Update: Playing with Visual Hub for the first time revealed a handful of annoyances or flat out bugs. I threw some random video I found online at it and it failed to produce something playable or stitch it together. Of course, the correctness of the original video is highly questionable — it was truly random content downloaded from When it worked, it just worked and produced a product of least unfortunate surprises.

Fly Eye

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006
Fly on Artichoke Cropped
Juvenile Gallardia Flower
Artichoke Flower

This morning, the garden was particularly beautiful.

Fortunately, I had my camera in hand.

These were shot with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens. It is an awesome piece of glass. Serves very well as a macro lens, for taking portraits, and as a general purpose fixed length lens.

Ice Shatters

Monday, June 5th, 2006
Pinball Meets Ice Cube

Ice shatters when a pinball hits it.

Next up, I’ll dissect the industrial design of Fuji vs. Kodak disposable cameras.