Engineer & Entertain

Ideas I grapple with

Archive for the tag “Geek”

Vonnegut Was Right!

Research from the Computational Story Lab at University of Vermont found there are six main plots in story telling.

  • Fall-rise-fall
  • Rise and then a fall
  • Fall and then a rise
  • Steady fall
  • Steady rise
  • Rise-fall-rise

I am glad to see we finally have research to confirm Kurt Vonnegut’s hypothesis decades later.

Ciao Mondo!

My loving wife recently gave me an Arduino Uno along with the book, Getting Started With Arduino.  I have no appreciable experience with microcontrollers and I intend to change that with an Arduino.

The first project (after setup) in the book is equated to making a computer display, “Hello World!“. It is not exciting, and all I did was follow directions, but I was able to do it.

While it is too early to provide any type of review, I would recommend purchasing an Arduino if you have an interest in learning more about microcontrollers.  I like having a book to work from so I do not have to switch between tabs or screens.  There is no need for the book though as there are plenty of free tutorials from Lady Adafruit, Instructables, SparkFun, and Make.  In short, I am geeking out about what I will be able to do with the Arduino and what I will learn.

Got some space junk in your payload bay

The thousands of satellites and other low Earth orbiting objects are cause for concern i.e. they could interfere with other space flights.  To counteract this problem, the Global Aerospace Corporation struck GOLD, or the Gossamer Orbit Lowering Device.

GOLD is a balloon which is affixed to a satellite and then inflated.  It thereby causes the orbit to decay and the satellite to burn in the Earth’s atmosphere.  I am not sure how big of a problem space junk is, or if this is a viable solution, but on the plus side there is finally a use for the leftover Rovers now that Number 6 drove off the island.

There Was Pop Up “News Radio” Too

I crave useless information like an obese person with no self esteem craves Oreos.  There are over 31,000 McDonalds in the world so obese people can always eat their feelings, but before there was Wikipedia, Mental_Floss, and Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, retrieving useless information in more than Snapple cap sized portions was difficult.

Thankfully, VH1 recognized the need for more substantial bits of information and created Pop Up Video in 1996.  Not only can you watch recorded episodes on YouTube, but one of the production companies, Spin The Bottle, also hosts a decent playlist on their website.

The one issue I have with Pop Up Video is that I cannot find how to cite it in APA format.

Anyone do Mission Possible in Sci-O?

I did.  And this Rube Goldberg device from OK-Go and SyynLabs puts it to shame.  Sure, I popped three balloons in a minute, but it was not synchronized to music.

This summer, I am clearing out my garage and recreating this video.  Or, maybe I will just clear out my garage because it needs to be cleaned.  Either way.

Leatherman Micra Key Mod

Several years ago I had the notion to take an old bicycle multitool and replace some of the tools with my house keys.  Due to laziness and a lack of mechanical know-how, I never did it.  Recently I saw the work of someone who had a similar notion.  The journeyman replaced the blades of the Leatherman Micra with his house keys.  Having a spare Leatherman around I decided to replicate his work.

Using two sets of pliers, the screws which the tools pivot around were removed.  Each screw was gripped and twisted until they came loose.  It took a decent amount of torque as the screws are superglued together as well.

After removing the screws and carefully retaining the tool blades, washers, and backsprings which came out, a tool was used as a template to determine how much of the key handle would have to be removed.

Initially I used a Dremel rotary tool to remove the material, but a hacksaw proved to be much faster.  An 11/64 hole was also drilled into the key.

The hacksawed areas were filed and then the tool was reassembled with the keys in place of some of the tool blades.  Initially, I had a key on each side, but this only allowed for one tool on each side. The keys were just a little bit thicker than the tools; enough to prevent two tools and a key from residing on one handle.  Ultimately, there is a tool handle and a key handle.

There is no blade on the tool because I typically carry a separate pocket knife and because the retained tools are generally allowed in areas where knives may be prohibited e.g. government buildings, airports, etc.

The process was straight forward and now I have a small complement of tools with my keys.  If any one else attempts to replicate this let me know how it goes.  The best piece of advice I can offer is to retain the order of the tools and backsprings.  The constraints are rather narrow facilitating need to reorder things carefully.

There is possibility of bending the already hacksawed and damaged key, but if I ever broke it I would not be too concerned.  There are keys everywhere, they are just in the shape of rocks.

Parallel parking became so much easier

The fifth episode of the mini series From the Earth to the Moon is about the design and construction of the Lunar Module (LM).  It went through scads of design changes.  One such change was to move from two docking hatches at 90 degrees from one another to one docking hatch at the top of the vehicle.  Ergo, the astronauts looked forward when landing on the Moon and up when docking with the Command Module (CM).

Looking forward to land means you have to rotate your controls 90 degrees when docking.  Your left roll becomes left yaw, left yaw becomes right roll, right roll becomes, well you get the idea.

Rather than adjust the control scheme, the solution to this problem was that “the astronauts are smart and they’ll figure it out”.  With such a lengthy build up I present to you First Person Tetris.  Rather than having the main piece rotate, your screen orientation rotates around the main piece.  Tricky at first, but you’re smart, you’ll figure it out.

Holmes for the holidays

Sherlock Holmes is a good movie, but a mediocre Holmes adaptation. If you have ever had a desire to earn your own pound and a shilling you may prefer rereading the short stories. If you have no clue what a pound and a shilling is, then go right ahead and watch the movie.

The movie does not draw from any Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, but the story follows a similar formula to other Holmes stories. The move also cherry picks details from the stories to use for the characters. Irene Adler is used as a femme fatale love interest for Holmes rather than a person of intrigue because she had bested him. In the story A Scandal in Bohemia, Holmes has an appreciation and admiration for her that resulted from her cunning, not her feminine wiles. Moreover, Holmes loves himself best and is generally depicted as a calculating machine than a person drawn to sentiment. The movie gives Holmes his ego, but also a requited romantic kindling toward Irene Adler.

There were some details which were well executed. Sherlock’s pugilistic tendencies and bartitsu fighting style is enjoyable to watch. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was not gifted when it came toward writing fight sequences. Doyle did excel though in proving Sherlock to be a very intellectual character. Holmes is certainly an action hero, but he is also very cerebral and the scenes which depict his thought and cunning are limited. None the less, Robert Downy Jr. did well to embrace and display Holmes’ quirks.

Dr. Watson was also portrayed well. In the films with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, Watson was a bumbling idiot rather than Holmes’ equal and colleague. Watson is clearly gifted intellectually and physically as one would expect from a physician and veteran of war. Watson’s gambling habits and womanizing traits are also alluded to and carried over from Doyle’s work.

I enjoyed the movie, but there are better Sherlock Holmes adaptations. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett are more faithful to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. My favorite Sherlock Holmes representation comes from Dr. Gregory House and Dr. James Wilson. House M.D. only makes passing references to Sherlock Holmes, but what great references they are.


Always wanted to go to MIT, but you dislike cream pies, tea parties, and mispronunciations?   Now you can take a majority of MIT’s courses with none of the Boston – online and for free!  MIT has taken an openware approach and posted a variety of courses online.  You will not earn a diploma from this but that should not stop you from teaching yourself calculus, physics, or urban studies (which sadly has nothing to do with hip-hop or break dancing).  I am not sure where I am going to start, but I will certainly heed the words of not letting my tuition-based schooling interfere with my autodidactic education.

Oliva Munn is hotter than Ms. PacMan

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