Saturday, February 28, 2009

Two notices for your consideration

  • Some library patrons are just better with their hands than others.

  • Informational display seen while shopping for GPS units.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The web of memories

CDC 7600 Core Memory
CDC 7600 Core Memory,
originally uploaded by stiefkind.
We still talk about core dumps nowadays, but back when I was in grad school using the Control Data 7600 (and, before it, the 6600), they actually used these hand-woven magnetic core arrays. We would submit our batch jobs to be run on the Cyber, and some time later on we would pick up our lineprinter output (green bar paper fan folded and perforated for tractor feed) set out in cubbyholes between the computer room and the outside. Or we would run a program to show graphical output on a monochrome Tektronix terminal and capture screens to be printed on a thermal printer or onto microfiche. At the time, we didn't even realize how cumbersome it was.

It is almost as if we lived during the time of dinosaurs. Towards the end of my time in grad school the first Macintoshes came out at the student co-op, themselves also museum pieces.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Better than a red-eye touch-up

Fantasy lightening dip
Fantasy lightening dip,
originally uploaded by Robin Hutton.
This image made me think about the great many other snapshots which might be improved by the addition of a little bit of electrical discharge.

Late for children's day,
originally uploaded by Seema K K.

having mixed in this image via The GIMP.

I modestly think the results speak for themselves.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Meet you at the food court

Greedy turtles swarming from Ivan Kwan on Vimeo.

This is what it feels like to go to a shopping mall around here on a Saturday, recession or no recession. Except for the water, which the mall management replaces with cold air.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Memory aid

I snapped this while in the checkout line at a supermarket, by way of perfecting my spying skills. It doesn't look to me as if that little note gets changed very frequently if at all. It is number 277 in the list of bad passwords, not even in the top ten among numeric passwords.

The mind reels. A determined band of thugs could gain access to the register and give themselves DOUBLE COUPONS with abandon.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The mystery of the bread from heaven

Yesterday, sometime in the morning when we were off at the gym, one slice of bread inexplicably showed up on our front walk. I am pretty sure that I didn't put it there, and I trust my wife who says she was equally perplexed when she saw it while going out to the car. When we first spotted it it was pretty much pristine (this picture shows it having sat out one damp night, thus the moist appearance you might have noticed), making it unlikely to have been dragged there by a bird or a squirrel, say out of our compost heap which is located quite a long distance away. It's also rather far from the street
which argues against the idea that some person passing by might have tossed it there for reasons too obscure to ponder. That person would pretty much have had to walk up our walk and place it down for it to have ended up where it did, which seems even more unlikely.
We didn't pick it up, thinking that it would simply be absorbed into the food web by the various mourning doves, starlings, sparrows, squirrels, and other wildlife we have seen foraging in the yard. This too proved to be an odd part of the puzzle, as this lovely nice fresh piece of nutrition was spurned by all. Was there something suspicious about the look of the slice, scaring off the birds, and about its odor, scaring off the squirrels?

The investigation is ongoing.

Update: Well, someone appreciates it, or the half that's left at any rate.

Friday, February 20, 2009

At cross-purposes

The Cost of Gasoline
The Cost of Gasoline,
originally uploaded by hidayat_peje7.
We are hearing about plans to jump-start the consumer sector of this country (and that of our trading partners) but it looks like all indications are that the new meme going around, which is really an old, old meme, is of scrimping and making do.I don't see much indication that if stimulus money ends up in the consumers' pockets there is going to be a big Keynsian multiplier effect on the level of the individual, as people take some or all of that money and sock it away into savings or to pay down credit, thus failing to stimulate producers.
To counteract this addiction to destructive savings behavior, perhaps the government could put strings on the funds it doles out to bias its use toward a multiplier greater than one. For instance, we could reward people who spend money on things which are actually addictive (drugs, alcohol, sports, greasy food, religious ecstasy, political extremism, etc.) so as to get them hooked and more willing to part with their own dollars in the future. Or we could make conspicuous consumption more fashionable again in the public eye by using the media to continue promoting extravagance, only more so. Or we could put something in the currency so that if it isn't passed along to someone else, it will self-destruct noisily and messily. Mix in a little bit of patriotism and almost anything can take off even if it doesn't sound that good in the first place.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Roach Sushi makes Gregor Samsa miserable

RoachSushi 2
RoachSushi 2,
originally uploaded by FeltedChicken.

This item makes me think there might be a market in making revolting tableaux as diet aids. You would put one or more of these around your kitchen and dining areas as appetite suppressants, and since they lack the characteristic odors and scutling noises of the real thing, when company comes around you could just sweep them into a drawer and they would be none the wiser.

As you become habituated to the fake roaches, you could achieve the same effect by coming up with more and more disgusting stimuli. It could be a subscription you would sign up for over six weeks, say, where a package would come to your house with more and more disturbing replicas so that you would not get too used to things.

The flaw in the plan, which I do not yet have a ready way to get around, is that one could simply leave the house to take meals elsewhere. It would generally not do for one to take one of the fake roaches along with oneself to a restaurant where it would be likely to disturb other customers and drive them off.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Another crop of falling-apart rants averted

originally uploaded by Sidereal.
  • Social bookmarking site ma.gnolia had a catastrophic failure that claimed not only the production database, which would not be unusual, but also apparently all their backups. What, no offsite database dumps? Fortunately, I have been posting my bookmarks also to delicious for the most part, so nothing much lost.
  • My laptop at home froze up, then refused to boot, even in Safe Mode. Off I went to my wife's computer to download and burn the latest Knoppix which allowed me to verify that the hard disk was still readable. I brought it in to work the next morning prepared to copy my data files off to an external drive, but somehow the Windows XP installation healed itself, so the retrieval operation changed to one of backup. Gee, and I was all set to install Ubuntu 8.10 on it.
  • The new furnace has been working a bit over-well, causing the radiator in the downstairs bathroom to spit out a lot of brown water all over the floor through its vent. We consulted with the plumbing company and it seems as if it's likely not a problem with that expensive unit, but either a problem with the old vents or with some kind of crud in the pipes. So I'll take a shot at saving a couple of hundred bucks by replacing some air vents on my own and seeing what happens.
  • The "auxiliary" (12V) battery in our Prius lost nearly all its charge today while we were at church, and was recovering only very slowly over the next half hour, so we called a service station to come and give us a jump start. The verdict is still out on this one, but it seems not to have re-manifested in a handful of starts since, so we'll hope for the best until we can get it in to the dealer's.

Now any one of these can turn back up again (except for the Magnolia one), so this is possibly only a full-blown rant deferred, not avoided. Watch this space.