Sunday, May 25, 2008

Geeking out on a Sunday

I am spending Sunday afternoon catching up on some geeking; I am watching lots of videos on TED; I've posted a few of them before with the CERN article, and the training crows article earlier this month.

I just ran across Michael Shermer's presentation. Michael Shermer writes in Scientific American every month, and it is usually the article I most look forward to reading on my long boring daily commute by train. I have also read his book "Why people believe Stupid Things" and find it to be a really great book, comparable to the late Carl Sagan's "Demon Haunted World", another one of my favorite books.

His presentation touches on the idea of pareidolia -- the remarkable human ability to recognize faces where there are just blobs. Seriously, you religious people can be so gullible sometimes. I chould use some extra cash: I'm going to manufacture some religious icons in toast so I can cash in and make some money like the one sold to the casino for thousands of dollars.

I especially liked the ending. They play this song on the radio all the time here in Switzerland.



My friend Miz K always complains "The video is 3 minutes! It's too long!" Man, talk about a short attention span! The one above is 13 minutes long. Hope you can sit through it.

If you're also being lazy and wanting to geek out on a quiet Sunday, I also found these videos very interesting:

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Intelligence of Crows

This is a whole new way of thinking about crows



http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/261

URL Barcodes

What's this new-age art? No. I met this interesting fellow named Leo. He is one of the few people, when I explain what I do, actually knew what I was talking about, and knew some of the people I have had dealings with. Leo is a unicyclist who does computer networking contract work to pay the bills. Or maybe its the other way around: A computer/network contractor who does unicycle stunts to pay the bills.

Anyway, he told me of one of his cool side projects with making barcodes easily importable into an iPhone. You go to this website called "zap.cat" and enter a URL. The URL gets coded into a barcode like the one you see above. (The service to do this is free)

You post this on a poster, or at the bottom of an advertisement or whatever. Somebody with a camera and the right kind of software takes a picture of the barcode, and then the software determines the barcode. You don't have to have an iPhone, the software is supported on lots of different mobile phones that have a camera. Unfortunately, my blackberry does not have a camera, so I can't play around with this.

You can view Leo's Unicycle page at http://www.unicycle.net/

Monday, May 12, 2008

In Amsterdam on Business

I flew out on Mother's Day to a week-long business trip to Amsterdam. I was last in Amsterdam in June of 2007, on my way back from my pre-housing visit to Switzerland. I got to the hotel room at around 10 PM.

My company has a corporate maximum rate of charge for a hotel room. But unfortunately and evidently, the people who came up with this rate have never set foot outside of the United States during the "George W Bush" regime, with the depressed value of the dollar. What I used to be able to afford was the Marriott hotel next door, that is where I stayed in June. Now all I can afford with the VeriSign corporate maximum hotel rates is the Amsterdam Eden Hotel. Now the name might not have much meaning to you, and it sure didn't to me, either. It appears to be a regular hotel that I would pay for if I was stuck someplace overnight on my own dime.

My opinion was starting to be formed when I got into the elevator. There was nigh enough room to fit me and my rolling luggage (one piece). When I stepped into the hotel room my opinion was fully-formed! I have never seen such a small hotel room! The only point where I could easily roll my luggage was down the initial foyer from the hotel hallway. After that, there was not enough room for both me and my luggage. The wardrobe was close enough to the bed, the desk was close enough to the wardrobe, and there wasn't enough room for all of us.

My flight out last night took the plane right over our house in Rüfenacht. I wish I had my camera out. I had spent the whole day in the airport -- the gliding part of the airport -- acting as "Barakenchef". In that club, just like any flying club, you spend cash to do the flying, but the stuff that needs to be done around the club is all volunteer work. So I get volunteered approximately once a month to act as the chef for the day. I show up in the morning to cook the "Nüssengipfeli" (croissants that have this nutty nougat inside), I take sandwich orders in the morning meeting, and cook the sandwich baguette bread so that it is ready for the noon flying break.

Only problem is there wasn't much flying going on. The only flights that were allowed out of the airport for that day were flights that were 100km or more in distance. The instructors didn't show up, as they couldn't do any training flights in the area around the airport. There was one student who showed up, hoping to bum a flight with somebody who was going on a cross-country flight. And there were the airport bums who showed up on a nice sunny day to enjoy a picnic.

I got one sandwich order, and did the dishes, and that was about it. I spent the whole day waiting for something to do. I couldn't easily go home (I didn't have the car). Yesterday was a boring, long, frustrating wait. The passed by less slowly when I found that the flying club had a local wireless network that I made use of. Web-Surfing really does help the time go by.

My co-workers flying in from American were due to show up this morning. Their flight was canceled. I do not know when they will arrive. I may have to spend the whole day here in the hotel lobby doing computer work. Maybe I will go out and see if there is anything to do in this town. ;)

Friday, May 9, 2008