Sunday, September 28, 2008

Obey Gravity. It's the Law.

What do you get when you start out with a vertical line of masses and set them in motion around a heavy object?


I've been working on allowing screen captures of my programs this week, which I can package into video with the opensource ffmpeg, and I am really liking it.  This Gravitation3D system (admittedly an artificial configuration) is very similar to the one I used to to make the pic on the top of my blog.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

$300 Unicycle Trumps $60000 Lotus

This happened a while ago, but the story recently came up in conversation and is maybe worth a funny share. For a long time, there was this fancy Lotus dealership just a few blocks down the street from where I work. These cars are pretty wild looking and come in some crazy colors...definitely eye turners.

On one particular morning when I was peddling into work on my unicycle, I had the serendipity to ride past one of these Loti driving down the street in the opposite direction. And I wish I could have videotaped the slowed driving and jaw dropped, head following reaction of the driver as we cruised on by each other. I'm telling you (somewhat seriously)...if you're having a midlife crisis and want people to look at you, meet that need for 0.5% of the cost of the traditional approach by learning to ride a unicycle!

Anyway, my friend Aj has a yearly ride in San Antonio for his birthday. Last year there were 11 riders, but last Sunday we reached critical mass with 18. I like riding in the big groups because I'm not much of a ham, so it feels like I'm getting to ride incognito for a change. It seems the only good camouflage for a unicyclist is more unicyclists. Here are some photos from the ride...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Small Talk

I really like riding the bus to work because it is my time to read. Sometimes though there are forces at work conspiring to steal these precious moments from me. For some reason, a number of bus travelers looooove to hear themselves talk, and even after a year of bus riding I haven't yet mastered the fine art of evading this with advanced techniques such as using ear buds or avoiding eye contact. Yesterday, I found myself daydreaming about other approaches, even extreme ones like feigning deafness, while my morning commute was usurped by a nice, but chatty man who talked to me ("to" is deliberate here, as to be distinguished from "with"). I got on the bus with another 4x4x4 cube for Colby (the first sadly has been disassembled and irreversibly mixed with food, but that is another story), and with this ice breaker the "conversation" began...

Nice, Chatty Man: "Oh, a Rubik's cube! I used to be able to solve those."

Me: "Cool, this one is for my nephew Colby."

Nice, Chatty Man: Proceeds to talk uninterrupted for 25 minutes with absolutely no peep from me as I longingly make glances at my book - I'm in no way exaggerating. Rubik led to speed solving, to games in general, to ping pong, to his forte: billiards. There's straight pool, snooker, a rotation game, 9-ball, some variant using 2 cue balls (one having a red dot), big and little tables and pockets, english and masse shots. He had what he called a "senior moment" at one point trying to remember the rules of one of the multitude of games he was describing to me, and pointed out this happens to everybody. Gambling came up, and the high-rollers he's played with. Snooker is actually named after a fish, which has really sharp teeth and hence requires one to use steel lead lines when fishing. There was in fact extended explanation of fishing, though I can't recall the details (it happens to everybody), with occasional reversals in the exposition back to pool again. Jackie Gleason made a cameo in this story and he described their meeting and how Jackie offered him Dom Perignon while they played (aside: nice, chatty man has actually had many tens of gallons of this fine sparkling wine over the course of his lifetime). A random glance out the window and a '65 something or other caught his attention, so we were off to the world of cars, 352s, hemys and chevys, oh my..........

Me: "Well, this is my stop, seeya."

Nice, Chatty Man: "Very nice talking with you. Bye."

Truly he had a dizzying intellect. I feel guilty for feeling a bit miserable during this experience and in retrospect, maybe I should have just tried to help get this guy setup to do some blogging.  After all, I didn't know snooker was both a game and a fish, nor what a masse shot was called.  But I can't even begin to decide how to tag this one.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Colby Cade Conquers the Cube!

My nephew Colby dramatically surprised me last Thursday when Melanie posted a video on the Wright's blog of him solving a Rubik's Cube! It totally made my day, and I'm posting it here as well :)

I am compelled to fan the flames of this fire and so I immediately went and bought him a 4x4x4 (hopefully this is not a bad thing). Since they are in Austin due to Hurricane Ike, I got to surprise him with it sooner than expected. Here he is in action last night with the new challenge.

At some point I'll need to decide if I should warn that continuing to increment the number-per-side on your cubes is ultimately a losing proposition.

Monday, September 1, 2008

We Can Fly!

Sarah and I spent Sunday taking an introductory hang gliding class with our friends Tim, Amir, and Sarah (Robbins - we try to maximize the number of Sarah's in our life). It was very exciting, and I am very sore today. We took our class from Jeff Hunt.

Sarah had this sweet sail on her 4th run down the hill.

I never landed as nicely as she did there :) ...which is probably why I'm so sore. Here are more photos we took.

Sarah and Amir took a bunch more nice photos as well.