July 29, 2009
It doesn't look like much yet, but it could be interesting some day
Six researchers have developed a system that goes well beyond matching up photos for simple things like panoramas, aerial maps, Gigapan or Google Streetview. This system takes photos from Flickr (such as the 2,081,629 photos labeled "Rome") and manages to match them up with each other. You can dig through their paper if you want to know how it deals with photos of Rome, New York, or restaurants with "Rome" in the name. There are some short videos on the site which, by themselves, are not that impressive. You get a 3-D cloud view of famous landmarks that, if you didn't already know about the technology behind it, looks lke it could have been developed by any CGI program used in Hollywood. I am sure that as work progresses something miraculous will come out of this.
But after looking at their videos I realized that the little pyramids (at a distance they're just black dots) that litter the scenes represent the positions from which each photograph was taken. THAT makes it interesting to me. It's especially clear in this video of San Marco Square in Venice (AKA "Plaza San Marcos" "Piazza San Marco" "St. Mark's Square" etc.) that uses 14,000 Flickr images.
They don't say whether they bothered to clear copyright on all those images they used.
Public Service Announcement - Safe Driving
July 28, 2009
Palin Makes Sense
Digital Photography Review has reviewed seven waterproof point-and-shoot digital cameras. Desert dwellers may scoff at the need for a waterproof camera, but you should be aware that a waterproof camera is also dustproof...and if you are going to Burning Man, you will want to be able to take photos in the dust.
Oh, Now I Understand
Bill O'Reilly explains that life expectancy is higher in Canada than in the U.S. because the U.S. has ten times the population, so ten times the number of accidents, etc. By that logic, China should have the shortest life expectancy on Earth, while tiny nations like Lichtenstein or the Vatican should have the longest. In the U.S. Wyoming should have the longest life expectancy and California the shortest. Within California, Los Angeles County should have the shortest life expectancy, while Mono County would have a much longer one. I don't know if Bill O'Reilly's logic begins to fail as you look at smaller and smaller political subdivisions, but if it doesn't then the inescapable conclusion would be that in order to live a very long life you should avoid human contact.
Mission Springs Park Reconstruction Underway
Not The Solution For Public Male Urination
Here you see the design for a proposed urinal to be placed on a public wall. Click the image for more SFW photos and description. The only problem it attempts to solve is the problem of urine on the wall and trickling along the street. It does nothing for the, uh, "public exhibition" problem. But I don't think it can even solve the problem it aims at.
First, you've got an opening that looks like it's 2 or 3 inches across. The only practical way to hit that consistently is to actually introduce your member into the opening. Most men do not want to insert their member into a little hole that's just been pissed in by some other man. So they're going to stand back a bit and do their best - if they are motivated - and I don't know what would motivate a man to use this thing unless a cop is standing right there. You could offer some reward. Place sensors in and around the urinal and if the man gets almost all of it into the opening (say 95% of the flow), then a little ticket is generated that entitles the bearer to a free drink or free parking or a taxi discount or something. Obviously, the price of this urinal has just gone up quite a bit.
Second problem is that the urine goes into a very small reservoir and then flows out through a small pipe on the back. Let's just assume that pipe is supposed to drain into the sewage system, even though it's not shown. With that small reservoir, the flow through the pipe will have to be fast to keep up with young, healthy drinkers. I believe someone who has plumbed or janitored will tell you that it will be easy for a small obstruction to completely block things up when you are depending on a gravity-fed water flow through a small opening.
Feds To Pay For One More Police Officer For DHS
City of Desert Hot Springs
65-950 Pierson Blvd. · Desert Hot Springs · CA · 92240
City of Desert Hot Springs Awarded COPS Hiring Recovery Program Grant
Contact: Police Chief Patrick Williams
City of Desert Hot Springs
(760) 329-6411 ext 301
July 28, 2009
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the City of Desert Hot Springs was awarded a COPS Hiring Recovery Program Grant in the estimated amount of $346,258. The grant funds will provide an additional police officer to the Desert Hot Springs Police Department.
Desert Hot Springs was 1 of 51 police agencies from jurisdictions in California with a population of less than 150,000 that applied for the highly competitive grant, and was 1 of the 14 agencies that was awarded funding.
The Desert Hot Springs City Council approved 2009-10 Operating Budget provided funding for 33 officer positions. The increase to 33 officers was made possible in part by the passage of Measure A in May, 2009. The award of the grant will increase that number to 34 officer positions. Presently, the Department has 29 positions filled, and Police Chief Patrick Williams is actively recruiting and filling the vacancies.
Public Safety is the Desert Hot Springs City Council’s number one priority. The addition of another officer is an important step in the process to the long-term community safety that our residents, businesses and visitors have come to expect. The addition of this position will help us increase community safety, improve the Department’s capacity to deter crime and to proactively seek out those who would do harm in our neighborhoods.
IIRC, this was the program that Finance Director Jason Simpson found out about and for which he began the grant request process while he was in Washington with Mayor Parks and Mayor Pro Tem Baker. The grant pays for one police officer for three years.
July 27, 2009
The Boys At MIT Do It Again
MIT researchers are working on an electric car that dramatically overcomes some of the usual limitations of electrics. In ten minutes you can give the batteries enough charge to travel 200 miles. Coupla drawbacks that keep it from being ready for the market right now. That ten minutes of charging requires 350 kW of power. In case you are wondering if your household 120 volt outlet is good for 350 kW, one of the researchers comments "That's enough power to blow the fuses on 20 residential homes at once." Also, the array of 7,905 lithium iron-phosphate batteries costs about $80,000. But give 'em another six months and they'll get over that hurdle.
Another Big One
The Consolidated-Vultee RB-36H Peacemaker is big. Here's a little table comparing it with the B-52 and the modern C-5.
|Wingspan||Length||Max Takeoff Weight|
|B-36||230'||162' 1"||410,000 lbs.|
|B-52||185'||159' 4"||488,000 lbs.|
|C-5||225' 9"||247' 1"||840,000 lbs.|
It's got six piston engines on the rear of the wings, plus four jet engines. Development of the B-36 began before the U.S. entered World War II in anticipation of the need for a bomber that could take off from the United States, fly to Europe to drops its bombs, and then return to the U.S. However, it did not enter use until 1948. It had a range of 8,800 miles. The B-36 was not surpassed in the weight of the payload it could lift until the development of the Boeing 747 and the C-5 Galaxy. The B-36 was the only means available to deliver the first hydrogen bomb. Each of the piston engines had its own 100-gallon oil tank for lubrication. More info on the B-36 at WikiPedia. From the 1955 movie Strategic Air Command starring Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson, comes this high quality, color film (with dramatic music) of a B-36 (with jets) taking off.
The largest bomber ever built (at the time), the B-36 served as America's airborne nuclear deterrent in the 1950s. Armed with sixteen 20 mm remotely controlled cannon in nose, tail and retractable fuselage turrets, it could carry 72,000 pounds of conventional or nuclear bombs. It had a maximum speed of 411 MPH, range of 8,800 miles and could operate to 39,000 feet. Fortunately never required to fire a shot in anger, they were the "big stick" of the Cold War until the advent of the B-52. This aircraft at Castle Air Museum is RB-36, reconnaissance bomber, equipped with multiple cameras. The camera ports are visible in the forward fuselage. It is one of four surviving B-36s and the only surviving RB-36. Castle Air Museum volunteers went to Chanute AFB, Illinois, to disassemble the aircraft and load parts on eleven flat cars supplied by Santa Fe Railroad. It was reassembled here on site, utilizing thousands of hours of volunteer effort. This aircraft was assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. It displays the markings of that unit.
"Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?"
If so, then you will probably like Spartacus: Blood and Sand, a series starting in January on Starz. This trailer is pixelated sufficiently that it's probably SFW, if watching bloody gladiator movies at your place of work is considered acceptable. You can see a higher quality version (still pixelated) by following the link above.
Not Just Another Exercise Gimmick
Gonna Have A Kiss-In!
Partly in response to a couple of recent incidents in which the sight of two same-sex people kissing in public generated an over-the-top homophobic reaction (and partly, I think, because it just sounds like it would be fun to do) a Great Nationwide Kiss-In is being planned for August 15 (11 AM Pacific time, 2 PM Eastern time). Here's the official website with 8 points to help guide you in organizing your town's Kiss-In. I never needed an organization to tell me how to just grab the guy next to me and kiss him, but these organizers are young and, therefore, full of energy.
On their current list of events, the closest one to Coachella Valley will be in Irvine "in front of Steelhead Brewery, 4175 Campus Drive." San Diego will have one at "Manchester Grand Hyatt, 1 Market Place." Events are also promised in Delano (!), Los Angeles and other California cities.
July 26, 2009
The New MacBook, First Report
The old Mac had two major shortcomings that forced me to upgrade:
- When I bought it I filled it with the maximum RAM it could take: ½ GB. Even for 2003, that seems like a small amount, but it ran pretty well. Over time, though, I guess the world has gotten bigger and more and more things would choke that ½ GB. I was seeing the spinning beachball more than anything else on the old Mac. I could see almost no videos, except those on YouTube - and those only if I had very little else running at the same time.
- I could never upgrade the old Mac past OS X version 10.4 (or is that just version .4?) and with version .6 about to release, we could begin to see the end of the road not far ahead.
Also, the old Mac was beginning to show weird quirks that I could not explain, beyond hardware failure. The external speakers would work only if plugged into the left USB port, not the right. One SD card (and then another) that I'd used for ages suddenly became unrecognizable for the old Mac, despite the fact that the card could be read perfectly on my old Windows 2000 PC and on this new MacBook using the same card reader.
With the new MacBook, everything that takes place on the computer is infinitely faster - which is to say that slow spots out there on the web are still slow. I can now watch all sorts of video (did you know there is porn out there?!). I can use GMail with all its features turned on. OTOH, obstreperous websites that wouldn't work in Opera on 10.4 still don't work in Opera on 10.5. No miracles there, of course.
The display is a little larger than the one on the old Mac, plus the new one is more than twice as bright. The old Mac never had a very bright screen, but as the little candle-bearing fairies that lived around the edges of the screen got older and more tired, I could see they were getting dimmer. When awoken from sleep, the old Mac's display was definitely a few shades away from full brightness. It took a few minutes of warming up before full brightness was achieved. On this new one, however, I actually operate it at less than full brightness when I'm indoors. Outdoors in the shade, I can crank it up to full brightness and see everything just fine. I haven't actually tried it in direct sunlight. Let's not go crazy.
Bought a new Firewire drive to put Time Machine on. Time Machine is Mac's backup software that became available with 10.5 and is the main reason I wanted to upgrade the OS. Been running Time Machine and appear to have 10 backups in place (now 11).
I launched Migration Assistant, but only went so far as to let it remind me how to boot the old Mac as a Firewire device, which reader "b" had already told me about. I moved all my documents via Firewire, but didn't copy the "system," or whatever Migration Assistant likes to call it. There was a fair amount of kludged up stuff on the old Mac that I didn't want to risk copying to the new one. I've been installing apps from disks, if I actually bought it that way, or downloading new from the web. Most of what I use is free stuff anyway, like NeoOffice. Some of the old apps were written only for Power PC chips, and I need to get new ones to run on Intel.
It's recognized my hardware without bothering me with anything. It knows the printer, the scanner, the card reader are all what they are. Does Windows still do that "New Hardware Detected" thing? That used to be like Russian roulette, waiting to see if Windows would figure it out correctly or damn you to an endless cycle of attempts to make it work. I'm sure it's all perfect now.
Battery life on the new one, if the numbers are to be believed, is about triple what I was used to. But I haven't drained the battery yet, so actual battery life may differ.
So far, IOW, everything's great. I haven't done anything significant with the built in camera. If you've got suggestions for that, let me know.
Dinner and a movie?
I'd like to hear from someone who has experienced this firsthand: and by this I mean something like AMC Entertainment's converting some of their theaters to restaurants where you can watch movies on a full screen. Here's the menu [PDF] that also explains how it works. You press a little button on your table and the gracious AMC waiter shows up to take your order. The bill is brought to your table 45 minutes before the end of the movie. AMC, a Kansas City-based chain, started this last autumn.
Obviously, the audience will be noisier and there will be more distractions in such a setting, but if you compare it to watching a movie at home, or sitting at a bar and watching the game on TV, watching a well-projected movie might be an improvement.
The execution will be what makes it or breaks it. If they provide the usual sort of service provided by a chain theater, then this will go to hell fast. But if they've hired professional restaurant staff, then it might work.
This came to my attention via this discussion on Flickr. Judging from the question, it sounds like AMC is still presenting itself as a cinema, rather than a restaurant that also shows movies. They sell you a $10 food voucher along with your $10 ticket ($20), apparently without explaining it to the potential customer. As I said, it's the execution that's going to break this.
July 25, 2009
San Onofre Udity
At San Onofre State Beach you pay $10 per vehicle for a day pass. Some goodly percentage of those people are headed to the clothing optional section of the beach, which has been legally clothing optional for decades. Some time last year it occurred to California Parks that these people who wanted to get legally naked on the beach were paying money to the park to do so, and wouldn't it be a very good idea to, therefore, ban nudity. That way, a lot of those people who are looking for a nude beach will go somewhere else and stop paying $10. In addition California Parks could hire one or more rangers just to go walking on the beach to make sure nobody is naked and write citations. Best of all, California Parks would then get drawn into a series of legal actions and court hearings. This is good because California Parks has SO MUCH MONEY that all of their parks are perfect and fully-staffed, and they've got all this excess money they need to spend on either attorneys or dancing strippers for every employee's birthday, and I think we all agree that attorney expenses look much more legitimate.
Beginning around Labor Day San Onofre State Beach will start enforcing its new rule against nudity (or udity)...that is, IF the park is open, IF they have any staff to do it. If it turns out to be as successful as we all expect it to be, then next year they may ban unattractively designed swimwear. They will hire an additional ranger to patrol the beach. Anyone wearing unattractive swimwear (bad colors, bad patterns, bad fit, etc.) will be fined, but their $10 vehicle fee will be refunded. Doubtless this will provide an even greater boon to the beach than banning nudity. Over time the state beach can progressively ban other people for other reasons. In 10 or 15 years they will effectively ban EVERYone, have a gigantic staff of rangers to make sure no one ever goes on the beach, and a budget surplus large enough to build that new toll road through the park.
The surf has been strong recently, if you haven't heard, throughout southern California. The beach had a lot less sand, a lot more rocks, and very few swimmers. Here's a vid I shot while standing at the edge of the surf.
Nude Sculpture In Florida
A nude sculpture near Delray Beach in Florida is generating the usual hysterical reactions. The sculpture is Journey To The New by Itzik Asher. The sculpture is described as a "representation of Jewish families who fled Ethiopia in 1991 under a covert Israeli military operation called Operation Solomon."
"My daughter has been joking about it," said Jeffrey Cohen, whose 6-year-old daughter attends summer camp there. "She shouldn't be talking to me about this."
I'm sure we all agree, a 6-year old girl who sees a nude sculpture should not talk to her father about it, of all people. Better she should go ask a stranger at the shopping plaza.
The Wedding Video
Apparently this wedding video from St. Paul, Minnesota, is getting a lot of traffic. Don't know why. This is what all brown-suited, white midwesterners do behind closed doors.
July 24, 2009
Four Fighters at Castle Air Museum
Developed from earlier straight-wing models, it was utilized as a ground-support fighter-bomber. It was capable of carrying 6,000 pounds of bombs (including nuclear) and was armed with six 50 caliber machine guns. It could achieve a speed of 685 MPH and had a range of 1,650 miles. The last Air National Guard F-84Fs were retired in 1971.
The P-80 recorded a number of firsts. It was the first Air Force aircraft to exceed 500 MPH in level flight, the first American jet airplane to be manufactured in large quantities, and the first Air Force jet to be used in combat. In 1943, Lockheed was invited to design an airplane around British Halford H-1 turbojet newly developed in Britain. A design team led by Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, who also designed the U2 and SR-71, completed the project and the prototype flew in in 143 days. Production aircraft used the GE J-33 engine. It was used extensively in Korea as a fighter-bomber. This plane on exhibit at Castle Air Museum carries the markings of Lt. Russell Brown, who shot down a MIG-15 on November 8, 1950, the first jet-to-jet kill.
I wonder if the other side has a little memorial somewhere to the first pilot to die in a jet-to-jet kill.
The Air Force's first swept wing jet fighter, the F-86 was flown by 20 other countries. In the Korean War, F-86 pilots shot down 792 Soviet-built MIG-15s at a loss of only 76 F-86s, a victory ratio of 10:1. All 36 allied jet aces in the Korean War flew the F-86. It was the first aircraft to set a speed record of over 700 MPH (715.697 MPH on July 16, 1953). This plane on exhibit at Castle Air Museum honors Major Robert Love, a Korean War ace with six victories to his credit.
The F-89 was an all-weather interceptor designed only for air defense. The "J" model was modified to carry the Genie air-to-air nuclear missile, shown here with the aircraft. It had a less than stellar career, primarily because it was underpowered. Built in 1954, it was retired from active Air Force service in 1959. This aircraft on display at the Castle Air Museum flew with the Air National Guard in Wisconsin and Iowa.
Ballpoint Pen Art
You may already know that Kenny Irwin, Jr. of Palm Springs (the holiday lights guy) does detailed drawings with ballpoint pens. But check out the photorealistic work of Juan Francisco Casas who has created works as big as 10 feet by 3 feet.