Category Archives: misc

Correlations and Cause

I’ve been using an Android app called SleepBot to track my sleep patterns for a while now. It shows me that sometime around the end of July, my sleep pattern changed. Whereas I’d previously been going to bed between 11:00 PM and 12:00 AM, I was now up until almost 2:00 AM on some days. Whereas I’d previously arisen sometime around 6:00 and 7:00 AM, I was now rising after 7:00 and closer to 8:00 AM.

While this is an interesting fact on its own, it also correlates interestingly with a calendar I have. It’s got one cell per day of the year, and one is apparently meant to color in each cell to match the color of the sky, leaves, or ground. It was at approximately the same time, late July, that I simply stopped doing so.

I’m still not entirely sure what happened in July, but I have a pretty good guess. That was about when I was roped into a Big Project. A project like the mythological hydra: cut off one head and two more take its place. Only it has problems instead of heads. And it seems to be recursively calling the Ninety-Ninety rule. That is, the first ninety percent of code accounts for ninety percent of the development time, and the last ten percent of the code accounts for the other ninety percent of the development time.

But, experience has taught me that Big Projects are pretty much all like that. And furthermore, chances are nearly 100% that at some point the fruits of one’s labor will, no matter how enthusiastic the initial reception, be declared obsolete and in dire need of replacement. And so another Big Project will be launched to do just that.

At least this one has, hopefully, gotten to the point where I can wash my hands of the worst of it. Hopefully.

Blogaversary

Happy Blogaversary. It was on this day in 2006 that I made the fateful step of launching this here blog. Why? Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. If you read those early posts (and why would you?) you’d find that I fancied myself something of a mad scientist. And although the science stuff was soon proven to be rather shaky, one must admit that I’d quite easily nailed the “mad” bit.

How the world has changed since then! If you don’t recall, George Bush was still in office, the Global Financial Crisis hadn’t yet materialized, and Christopher Eccleston was The Doctor. At the time, I had just finished Computer Genius School and was looking for the legendary and oh-so-elusive Real Job. (That wouldn’t materialize for several more months.)

Blogging was a quirky hobby that was soon to approach its zenith of popularity. This was before Twitter caught on and when Facebook was just for college students. Heck, MySpace was still popular and thought by some to be a viable alternate route to a “real” Web Presence.

Back then, The Cloud was still a dream, and people still hosted websites in their offices, if not in their very living rooms. This was not even considered unusual, but was simply the way things were done. Back then, nobody cared about mobile accessibility. Most people still had flip phones that could barely display a full sentence on screen, let alone a properly-formatted page of HTML. Some people didn’t even have that. Some people not only had only a landline, but bragged about it.

I still read a lot back then. It seemed as though every day, I’d sit down for lunch with a good book (or at least, a book that I hoped would be good) and then again just before bed. Now? Not so much. It seems my phone is a lot more convenient to carry around, and Twitter makes just as fine of a distraction while I chew.

But while I may check on Twitter, I don’t particularly use Twitter. Yes, I may retweet the occasional thing that strikes me as witty, but original tweets? Very few. I’ve even neglected Instagram lately, and that’s pretty much a no-brainer: take a picture of something and press the share icon. I don’t think it’s social media fatigue, exactly, but rather a case of not finding anything interesting or original to say.

But… Inspiration seems to come in waves, so maybe that will change soon.

Rulings

So, the Supreme Court finally decided the DOMA and Prop 8 cases. Well, they declared DOMA unconstitutional. They found the backers of Prop 8 didn’t have standing to appeal the lower courts’ decisions. This is about what I expected from the court. Any ruling on that matter would certainly have led to state-by-state repercussions, no doubt accompanied by accusations of judicial activism and cries for secession.
It is expected that California will soon resume issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Many will rush out and tie the knot. I even received an email from a friend which said, “DOMA’s dead! You need to get married, bro.”
And now, maybe someday I will.

May 27-30

So… It seems I have fallen a few days behind in the Pic-a-Day challenge. Would you believe that I was waiting for bionic hands to come in the mail? No, of course you wouldn’t. Who would put bionic hands in the mail? That’s got to go FedEx.

On another note, don’t you just hate when you aim for “Save Draft” button, but then hit “Publish” instead? Yeah, me too!

Anyway, here’s the true pic of the day. A massive sculpture sitting in Sorrento Valley, a neighborhood famed for its twice-daily freeway congestion.

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To me, it looks like a rocket, which makes sense. General Dynamics used to have a plant a few miles from this location. Atlas rockets were test-fired only a few more miles down the road. One of these rockets can still be glimpsed from Highway 52.

May 27

Now for something completely different. I once converted a toy camera (a SiPix Blink II) to take “infrared” pictures. I place infrared in quotes, since it is a very near infrared, that is somewhat visible to humans. However, it is an extremely interesting effect, and easy to do.

There are many materials that are transparent to various wavelengths of infrared light, and that are also opaque to visible light. Some people claim good results with 35mm negatives and floppy disks. I use theatrical lighting gel in the color of Congo Blue.

I started by making viewing goggles, by attaching three layers of Congo Blue to an old pair of safety goggles. When I put them on, it was very dark at first. After a moment of adjustment, I could see plants reflecting a pinkish orange color. It was quite remarkable.  I read that looking at too bright of a light with the goggles on could cause snow blindess, so I tried to be careful about that and not look at the sun or any dazzling gleams. The safety goggles were UV coated to begin with, so it might not have been an issue, but better safe than sorry.

Next, I found my old Kodak Z700. Most digital cameras have a filter that limits the sensor to the wavelengths of light that humans can see. You can remove this filter and take pictures that include some infrared and ultraviolet light. For example, in the Z700, this filter is a tiny sliver of glass resting on a square rubber frame around the image sensor. Transparent to the naked eye, when I looked at it wearing my Congo Blue goggles, it shone like a mirror.

I ended up replacing this filter with a piece of plastic of a similar thickness. It came from the sliding drawer of a parts organizer, and was so transparent in infrared as to be almost invisible. I slid the Congo Blue pieces behind the rubber frame, up against the image sensor, where they’d be held perfectly flat.

When I put the camera back together, it worked amazingly well…

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This is a path at Mission Trails Regional Park. It is interesting that the camera interprets the light reflected by the plants as white, rather than pinkish-orange. The sky is dark, as the familiar blue glow is more or less filtered out.

I had a lot of fun with this project, and I plan to post some of the other photos I took to Flickr.

May 21

I see robots…

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I was going to tell a different story today. Unfortunately, Fate has decreed that I shall have a  migrane tonight. A dull ache at the base of the skull, a sharp ache behind the eye, and wonderful, wonderful nausea. Nothing to do now but lie down and wait it out.

As they say, this too shall pass.

May 20

The busts along the side of the old California Theater look as though they’re ready to hurl objects at random passers-by.

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You may notice that one of the statues is missing an arm. In general, the building is in sad shape, as it has been standing vacant for over twenty years. Just last year, the marquee was removed, lest it collapse on unsuspecting pedestrians. A sad state for what was once a regal cinema. The California Theater was built in 1927, and featured restaurants, shopping, and even a modest office tower. Of course, its focal point was its lavish 2,200 seat auditorium, which some called a “movie cathedral.”
As with the El Cortez, the theater’s glamour faded and it changed hands several times. The theater closed for good in 1990. It has since been designated historic. However, it is rumored that the interior deterioration is so severe, that restoring the theater to any kind of operational state would probably never be a profitable investment.  If that is true, then the California Theater will undoubtedly stand empty for a long time.

May 19

Not long ago, I found a wooden carryall that I fixed up and hung on the wall. Ever since, I’ve been on the lookout for a couple more like it, in order to give them the same treatment and finish off the wall. Well, I recently found two that were close enough. So, today I went to the art store to get some decorative paper. I found a map of Rome, a sheet of French newspaper ads, and a burgundy swirl pattern.

Faux French Decoupage Paper

It seems like a shame to chop up the map, so maybe I’ll save that for something else. I think I can use the ads with the newsprint scraps left over from the last project. And if I hate that, I’ll cover it over with the burgundy.

May 18

Because it is still, technically, Spring, this means that the birds and the bees are busy doing their thing. So are the trees. Most of us know (or are) someone who is bedeviled by the clouds of pollen expelled by our friendly neighborhood plants. Sometimes, the pollen is even visible as a faint yellowish dusting on one’s just-washed automobile. And sometimes, the trees get serious.

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I don’t know exactly what these trees are, but I see them here and there. They produce tons of fluff, and then they fling it into the air. Which then blows the stuff everywhere. I made the mistake of parking near one of these trees on a slightly damp morning. It was coated in fluffy mush when I returned. Worse, when it dried, it looked just like bird poo,  so I heard comments about that all the way to the car wash.

This next photo doesn’t show the flying fluff as well as the one that I Instagrammed, but it’s much more dramatic.

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Trying to shoehorn it into a little square just didn’t work.

May 17

Just a few days ago, I complained about the heat. Well, now it seems that the June Gloom phenomenom may be starting early. Layers of clouds blow in from the ocean in the late spring, shielding the coastal regions from solar oppression until July. Of course, if you live just a bit inland, as I do, then you know that the clouds don’t always reach that far. So you suffer the sun’s full blast. You also suffer the moans of those who take the weather just a bit too personally. “Oh, man! These clouds… They’re, like, bumming me totally out, man!”

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I, for one, have never had a problem with a bit of gloom.