Thursday, September 28, 2006

Stunning view of the South Side and Loop

I was busy flying, but my friend Stan snapped this one as we boogied up the lakeshore under the Class B. Only saw one other GA A/C doing likewise (southbound), too.

Why fly around in little airplanes? This is a big part of the secret.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

This Should Scare The Crap Out Of You

I am not kidding.

As if we weren't already suspicious of our electoral process (Rolling Stone article on the probably-bogus Ohio 2004 election), and of the electronic voting-machine company fox guarding the henhouse (Diebold then-chairman/CEO Walden O'Dell promised in 2003 that he was committed "to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President"), now we find out that given one minute's access to a Diebold AccuVote TS machine, a prepared criminal can not only subvert its vote totals undetectably, but install a virus so that the normal software-update cycle can propagate the malware to other machines.

This is not fantasy, or some theoretical proof of vulnerability as we're used to seeing from cryptographers. A team from Princeton wrote the hack, demonstrated its effectiveness and invisibility, and created a video to tell you about it. It's not technical, or rather they explain the tech in terms that anyone sufficiently sentient to vote should readily appreciate.

See for the whole scoop, including the technical papers. Then demand that your local and state elections officials refuse this idiocy. The tension between accuracy and convenience -- largely driven by media outlets who demand instant results, and thus ultimately by you and me -- is admirably detailed here in security expert Bruce Schneier's article. While other systems, even my favorite (optically-scanned paper ballots) have their vulnerabilities, handing our electoral process over to software with no hard audit trail is just madness.

If Republicans win, I am sad. I'd like the outcome to be different. But that's democracy for you.

However, if anyone, anyone at all, subverts the electoral process so that U.S. citizens know that it's rigged, we are heading for a dictatorship, widespread violence, or both. It has happened in too many other places for us to assume that we're immune.

Some zoomy flying video

Kirby Chambliss (and others) flying the Red Bull Air Races (courtesy of Avweb)

A French R/C modeler has created a pan-and-tilt camera mount for his plane, complete with video goggles, and has recorded some très nifty flights.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gestation in 20 seconds

This is a really charming YouTube video--nicely done, parents!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Arrr! Talk Like A Pirate, Ye Scurvy Bilge Rats!

As my friend Jim never fails to point out each year, September 19th is in fact International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

  • ABC's Wife Swap honored it yesterday with a "Wench Swap" episode (trailer)
  • Dave Barry's classic column that catapulted the whole thing to..well, wherever it is today
  • Pirate Rap on NPR ("Straight Outta Portsmouth")
  • A hilarious training video: How To Talk Like a Pirate (thanks Dennis!)
  • UPDATE (thanks for the reminder Dennis and Katt!): Those salty sea-dogs at Woot are into the spirit! (As I've noted previously here and here, whenever the Woot product of the day features Bluetooth technology, the day's podcast usually includes a new sea shanty about Bluetooth the Pirate, who was given to evil acts:
    "He'd strangle two kittens for fun every day/And make NPR pledges that he'd never pay..."

    "He sold his own mother for 15 gold pieces/And plagiarized most of his graduate thesis..."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Now THIS is research!

"So", you must have been wondering, "what happens if I drive a remote-control, full-size car behind a 747 putting out full power?"

So were we. And we're glad you asked.

The Bunker Mentality

I've talked about it before, the idea that mining the earth and its people is a perfectly viable strategy if you consider yourself above the nature and people you exploit and have someplace to go when the resulting excrement hits the fan.

We've got an entire class of nose-holding "I got mine" rich folks who meet the first criterion, but where can they hide out? The Caribbean? Got their own underclass problems. Panic rooms? You gotta come out sometime. Gated communities? So passè, and too easy to target. Way in the back of beyond would be good, and underground would be perfect. Well, here you go -- a bunker in the woods, a half-million-dollar "summer home" to which you can retreat when the muddy, hopeless poor or the abused climate finally go berserk.

Of course, the Bushes and Sauds of the world won't have to stoop to such primitive conditions. Still, it's something mere multimillionaires can aspire to.

Half of the fun is the earnest discussion of the coming Russian nuclear attack (they assert that a prototype survived a nuke shot without damage, way back when!) and the biowar that's almost upon us. Not your everyday real estate ad, that's for sure.

Oh, and they don't tell you the address. Part of the security. Obscurity, as we know, is an infallible strategy that way.
Thanks to Bruce Schneier, once again, for the item.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Mythbusters water-rocket video

They launch a water-cooler bottle and get results far in excess of what they intended, given that they launch it with a measurement backdrop a la the carnival ring-the-bell game. (Hint: It goes a little higher than the top of the backdrop.)


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Potassium Go Boom

If you haven't seen Theodore Gray's wonderfully deranged and obsessive chemistry craftsmanship, you really should.

He also has videos of alkalai metals getting dumped into water. Boom. If nothing else, this phrase is worth the trip by itself:
...which is taped to a heavy metal plate (pure nickel, since I'm an element collector and have that kind of thing lying around)...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A smile making the rounds

This is adapted from a medical stress evaluation.

Look at the picture below, of two identical dolphins jumping out of the water. For some reason, people under stress perceive differences between the left and right dolphins.

If they look very different to you, you might want to seriously think about a vacation.

(Thanks Keith!)

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Just got back from camping in Door County. Ahhhh!