October 21, 2007

Twisty Neighborhood

While Kathleen and I were taking our daily one-mile walk 'round the "block" just now, a car pulled up alongside us. The driver leaned out and asked, a little plaintively, "How do we get to the main street and get out of here?"

The streets around our neighborhood are a bit maze-like...

November 29, 2006

Virtual Catharsis

This was vastly more satisfying than I expected.

No, really.

April 12, 2006

Keeping its head while your child is losing theirs

Oh. My. God.

Topic 357 in the IRS's collection of tax writings is entitled "Tax Information for Parents of Kidnapped Children".

No, really, it is.

Don't let your own family kidnap your kid: if they do, you can't claim him or her as a dependent any more. It's important to keep your mind on the big picture in such a stressful situation. Certainly the IRS is.

(From a nice piece by Benjamin R. Cohen in The Morning News, whose Tournament of Books ends tomorrow.)

March 14, 2006

Finally, the recognition I deserve...

Back in September, when I upgraded the blog to the new version of Movable Type, I noticed that they'd added support for moderating TrackBacks, so I decided to try enabling them. It would be fun, I thought, to see all the interesting sites where other people were linking back to my blog.


And thus was I introduced to the concept of TrackBack spam. I was, by then, already pretty familiar with comment spam; indeed, the support in the new version of Movable Type for semi-automatically dealing with junk comments was a major reason why I made the upgrade. That's worked out reasonably well, actually, and the same machinery also manages junk TrackBacks, so it's really just a question of going into the admin interface every once in a while to clear out all of the junk it's automatically quarantined for me.

Last night, after posting about the funny cats video, I decided to do some junk cleanup. It had been a little while since the previous scrub, so there were about 150 junk comments stacked up and about 250 junk TrackBacks. As usual, I skimmed through the two lists fairly carefully, making sure that everything there was really junk. But last night, for the very first time since I enabled TrackBacks, there was actually a real one buried in the middle of the junk! Somebody somewhere had actually both linked to an entry on my blog and used blogging software that bothered to tell me about it via the TrackBack mechanism.

Lia, from, had somehow come across my Mount Tee posting, been ... impressed? ..., and linked to me. Here's the best part, though: she didn't just say, "Wow, that dude has one heck of a lot of T-shirts!" No, indeed! Lia, obviously being a person of penetrating discernment, recognized my true nature. She has named me, truly, "the Imelda of T-shirts"!

What a great title! Now I just need to get that printed on a shirt...

February 19, 2006

Mount Tee Rises Again!

Mount Tee

It was only late last April that I previously laundered all of my actively worn T-shirts, but like clockwork, every nine months or so, the necessity comes back around on the guitar. So it was that, for the past week, I've been running over a dozen loads through the machines and, more tediously, folding, folding, folding. I'm pretty pleased, though: after starting the laundry loads Sunday night, I managed to finish up all of the folding on Friday night, while watching the DVDs of Brideshead Revisited that we checked out of the local library. Nothing like a long, slow-moving English drama to move the process along nicely.

Mount Tee

The count this time was 259, roughly evenly split between the whites/greys/neutrals (122) and the other colors, including black (137). Well, that was the count before Kathleen made me sit down and go through all of the piles to make sure that they were all shirts I still enjoyed wearing. She was right, as usual: we ended up finding 13 shirts (about 5%) that were either ugly, boring, inexplicable, or some combination of the three. (Why, for example, did I have a "train with the insane" shirt from 24-hour Nautilus, even though I've never been there?)

So, really, I now have "only" 246 shirts in active rotation, so I guess I'll be right back where I started last Sunday, loading shirts into the washing machine, in only about eight months from today. Sigh. Just in time for Halloween, I guess...

November 28, 2005

An early morning drive through Paris

Sounds romantic, doesn't it? A leisurely trip along the mostly deserted boulevards of Paris, enjoying that incredible morning light and the beauty of the city before it fills up with all of the traffic and craziness of the day ahead? Well, maybe not all of the craziness...

Check out this amazing film, shot with a camera attached to the front bumper of a Ferrari driven by someone very, very skilled (if not very wise, socially responsible, or concerned with self preservation). The French text at the beginning makes the claim that the movie was created without cutting or speeding up the film.

(From Lynn Cherny, who got it from Steve Crandall, who got it from "Jeff".)

Update: This film is actually pretty well known among a certain subculture. It was apparently made in the late 1970s (some say 1976, others 1977, still others 1978) with a gyro-mounted camera on the bumper, fairly new technology at the time. The web is, as usual, full of wonderful bits of information about the film, as well as cute hacks related to it. My favorite two so far are this detailed speed analysis, showing a top speed during the film of a staggering 136.7 mph, and this lash-up with Google Maps showing the precise route taken. You can even buy the film on DVD.

November 11, 2005

Careful what you search for: it might find you

Robert Petrick is on trial in North Carolina, charged with murdering his wife and dumping her body in nearby Falls Lake. Prosecutors recently entered into evidence information about Google searches performed by Petrick days before he reported his wife missing. The searches included the keywords "neck", "snap", "break", and "hold". Other searches concerned lake levels, water currents, and boat ramp locations around the lake.


(From, via the Google blog.)

November 07, 2005

Hitler defeated!

I just about died this afternoon when Hans showed this to me:


And while we're on the subject, I assume you're familiar with the World Rock Paper Scissors Society? Truly inspired.

September 21, 2005

More Things I Couldn't Have Made Up

As many of you no doubt know, last Monday was the annual "Talk Like a Pirate" day. In honor of the occasion, a new piece of computer peripheral hardware has been created to meet the needs of an appropriate market niche. See this entry from Matthew Baldwin's Defective Yeti site for a fine picture. (Thanks to Hans Andersen for pointing this out.)

Meanwhile, in the Piedmont region of far off Italy, the mother of all stuffed animals has been ... deployed? ... in a position intended to last for 20 years. Regardless of its longevity, this is the kind of art project I can really get behind. (Thanks to Nadja Haldimann for making me aware of this.)

August 28, 2005

Cool or freaky? You decide...

The puzzle design

Like a lot of people, I've always been amused and intrigued by optical illusions, but a recent posting on Boing Boing really got to me. If you click on the small image to the right, a larger copy will appear in a separate window. Focus on the small plus-sign in the middle of the picture, paying attention to the fuzzy dots around it, but not looking directly at them. What do you notice?

Most folks almost immediately see that there's a fuzzy green dot moving around and around, even though there's actually no green in the animation at all. Okay, that's pretty weird, sure, but not too earth-shattering.

Much weirder is what most folks see next, or rather what they stop seeing: after about five seconds of staring at the little plus-sign, the fuzzy purple dots disappear completely, leaving just the grey background and the (nonexistent) green dot going around and around, all by itself. This completely did me in. I instantly wandered all over the nearby offices, looking for people to come confirm my experience.

On one site (Boing Boing's source for the image) this is claimed to be an example of a phenomenon called motion-induced blindness, which is certainly a cool and strange thing in its own right. But Michael Bach’s page on this one attributes it more believably to something much simpler, called Troxler fading. Whatever the explanation, it's certainly pretty cool. Or freaky.

By the way, if you have any interest in this sort of thing, you owe it to yourself to spend some time on Michael Bach’s really excellent Optical Illusions & Visual Phenomena site. This is a great large collection of visual illusions, each with detailed explanations reflecting the best current understanding of the human visual system. In many cases, Michael also provides a little Flash applet to let you play around with various parameters of the illusion. It's great fun, and the explanations are remarkably accessible to the layman.

August 14, 2005

Fun with Statistics

Langley, WA

Seen in Langley, WA.

July 11, 2005

There's Something You Don't See Every Day...

Seen while checking on the UPS delivery of a package of mine...


July 01, 2005

Things I Couldn't Have Made Up

Two recently encountered items I wish I was creative enough to have made up but that are, amusingly, true. First, from the community bulletin board at an Ashland Safeway:

To help raise awareness of prostate cancer ... we will be sponsoring a "world's cutest baby" contest.

Of course. Naturally. What else?

And from the Ashland Daily Tidings classified ads:

ROOSTER found in back yard. Please call.

Pretty please?

May 04, 2005

Waste Not, Want Not

I always wondered what happened to all that stuff...

May 01, 2005

Folding T-Shirts as if by Magic

I am in the middle of my every-eight-or-nine-months-whether-I-need-it-or-not T-shirt laundry. I have over 250 T-shirts in active rotation, and I'm obsessive (and lazy) enough to want to get through wearing essentially all of them before I do the laundry. One downside of this (aside from the need to own more hampers than most large families) is that when the laundry comes, it comes on big. So far, I've done about nine large loads, and I estimate that there are still another five to go.

The most tedious part of the process, of course, is not the washing or drying, but the folding. And folding. And folding. Thus my great interest when, while playing games Saturday night, our friends Dean and Stephanie mentioned T-shirt origami, a very cute technique for folding a T-shirt neatly in a quick and initially baffling set of motions.

This has, as was obvious in retrospect, been blogged many times, but it was so new and relevant to me that I couldn't resist.

(By the way, after extensive research, I have determined that, while much cooler, the origami technique is neither as fast nor as convenient in result as my standard approach. Hold up the shirt with thumb and forefinger by the shoulder seams with the front facing you, then use the other fingers to fold the sides in; finally, swing the bottom of the shirt away from you, setting it down on the table as you do so, and complete the fold. With a little practice, this goes very quickly indeed...)