Archive for the ‘Geek’ Category

Art, damn it, art! watch. (#45 in a series)

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Box Sized DIE is a public installation in a London banking district by Portuguese artist João Onofre. It’s a soundproofed, airtight black box. Inside, UK band Unfathomable Ruination will be playing death metal until they run out of oxygen, every day for most of July, starting on Sunday. The installation is part of the Sculpture In The City public art program by City of London.

My first thought: what do they mean by “run out of oxygen”? Does the band play until they pass out? If so, how will anyone know, given that the box is soundproofed and opaque? Do they just play until a certain CO2 level is reached? Do they have sensors and an alarm in the box?

My second thought: how long will the band actually play? Or, to phrase the question in another way, how long does it take to use up all the oxygen in the box? Apparently, this isn’t the first time a death metal band has played in the box (though it is the first time this has been done in London). Surely there must be some stats on this, like average length of time spent in the box.

My third thought:

My fourth thought:

Art F City argues that this is one of London’s “worst public art projects,” because “Passersby can’t hear them play, so what’s the point of choosing death metal over anyone else?” But there are many things we can’t see or hear directly from a sculpture. Onofre is charging the invisible core of the object with the specific force and drive of death metal. It’s black. It’s claustrophobic. It’s all angst. Of course it had to be black metal! Unlike most conceptual public sculptures, we know exactly what’s “inside.” Maybe it’s not the most subtle form of compacting tension and placing it into a public space, but I’m biased, so… \m/

Sounds like pretentious bullshit to me.

Once again, I say: Ha! Ha! And, Ha! yet again!

Monday, June 30th, 2014

From the NYPost:

Why waiters should be replaced with iPads

(Previously. Please note that my linking this is more for my own amusement, and should not be taken as an endorsement of the article; while I think it makes a good point or two, I also think it comes close to suffocating itself in the usual entitled whining that seems to characterize far too many (but not all) New Yorkers.)

William Gibson, call your office, please.

Friday, June 27th, 2014

One of my cow orkers sent me this link. As far as I know, it isn’t proprietary.


Warning note: this site seems to be optimized for Chrome.

Ha!, I say. Ha! And Ha! again!

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

Together with tableside tablets that allow customers to order desserts and alcoholic drinks as well as pay their bills and play games without the help of a waiter, new technology has helped Chili’s address one of its customers’ biggest complaints — slow service — and add higher-margin items to its menu.

Mr. Roberts of Chili’s said about a fourth of the customers answered a survey about their experience, providing feedback. The system is so sophisticated that it can ask different questions to customers based on their orders, soliciting opinions on a new special or dessert item. A customer who has a coupon can opt to switch on a camera that will read it, or use the camera to upload a photo to Facebook or Pinterest.

Chili’s pays Ziosk a monthly service fee, but if enough customers opt to pay to play games on the system — trivia is the most popular game at Chili’s — it can make that money back under a revenue-sharing agreement.

The new system has helped the Braintree [Panera Bread - DB] location reduce errors in orders, which could run as high as six out of every 10, in that way increasing profitability, said Chris Hogan, its manager. It has allowed Mr. Hogan to put fewer workers at the cash register and more in the kitchen.



Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Our table at the banquet was only about halfway occupied, and some of my fellow diners were trying to scam additional deserts from the server. (“No, really, they just stepped outside for a couple of minutes. They’ll be right back!”)

The server brought over some extras, with the good-humored comment that “I’m not the Cheesecake Police.”

Which got me thinking:

  • How do you join the Cheesecake Police?
  • Is there a Cheesecake Police Academy?
  • Doesn’t “Cheesecake Police Academy” sound like some sort of cheap knock-off movie that you’d see on a low-rent cable channel in the 1980s? Complete with a very low rent version of Michael Winslow?
  • What’s the training like?
  • Is there a citizen’s ride-along program?
  • What do the uniforms look like?
  • What’s the duty gun for the Cheesecake Police? (Obviously, it should be some sort of Smith and Wesson.)

Why, yes, I am in a weird mood. Why do you ask?

Obit watch: May 17, 2014.

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Dr. Clyde Snow, legendary forensic anthropologist.

In Argentina in 1985, Dr. Snow and students he had trained excavated a mass grave where military death squads had buried some of the 13,000 to 30,000 civilians who vanished in a seven-year “dirty war” against dissidents. They found 500 skeletons, many with bullet holes in the skulls, fractured arms and fingers, and abundant signs of torture and murder.

In 1979, Dr. Snow helped identify many of the 33 boys and young men killed by Mr. Gacy, most of them buried in a crawl space under his suburban Chicago home. That year he also helped identify many of the 273 people killed when an American Airlines flight crashed and burned on takeoff from O’Hare Airport in Chicago, then the nation’s worst air disaster.

Witnesses from the Grave: The Stories Bones Tell (which is briefly mentioned in the obit) is the book that sparked my interest in forensic anthropology. It appears to be out-of-print, but readily available: I commend it to your attention.

Also among the dead: Watergate figure Jeb Magruder.

Quote of the day.

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Oh dear god, they have half-lives for the unstable elements.

–one of my cow orkers, in reference to this.

Who holds back the electric car?

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

By way of the Y Combinator Twitter, I found this rather interesting Fast Company article about “Better Place”.

Better Place was born to be revolutionary, the epitome of the kind of world-changing ambition that routinely gets celebrated. Founder Shai Agassi, a serial entrepreneur turned rising star at German software giant SAP, conceived Better Place “on a Davos afternoon” in 2005 when he asked himself, “How would you run a whole country without oil?” Four years later, onstage at the TED conference, Agassi, a proud Israeli with a bit of a Steve Jobs complex, wore a black turtleneck and promised, with the confidence of a man who has known the future for some time but has only recently decided to share his findings, that he would sell millions of electric vehicles in his home country and around the world. He implied that converting to electric cars was the moral equivalent of the abolition of human slavery and that it would usher in a new Industrial Revolution.

Shai Agassi was on FC‘s “2009 Most Creative People in Business” list. He was on the cover of Wired. Better Place raised almost a billion dollars.

And if being on the cover of Wired wasn’t a dead giveaway for you, they collapsed.

Agassi had assumed that the car would cost roughly half the price of a typical gasoline car and would have a range of at least 100 miles. Instead, batteries were delivered with a range of closer to 80 miles, and the terms with ­Renault meant he was selling an unsexy family car for about the same price as a nice sedan like the Mazda3 or the Toyota Corolla. (Not to mention that customers were asked to spend an additional $3,000 or so a year to rent the battery and pay for the use of charging and swap stations.)

I have been, and continue to be, somewhat critical of Tesla. But I think one thing they’re doing right is positioning their vehicles as a premium product that’s worth the asking price.

Random notes: April 8, 2014.

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

For the historical record, your Mickey Rooney obit roundup: NYT. LAT. A/V Club.

The author Peter Matthiessen has also passed away after an illness. The only work of Matthiessen’s that I’ve read so far is In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, which made a strong impression on me at the time. Further, I say not, as I’d sound too much like TJIC. Anyway: A/V Club. NYT. NYT Magazine article published shortly before Matthiessen’s death.

Thanks to “That Guy” for providing a Houston Press link with more details about the Damian Mandola story. There’s also an update in the Statesman: Austin Eater has a story which links to the Statesman, so this may let you get around the paywall.

…security researchers say that in most cases, attackers hardly need to go to such lengths when the management software of all sorts of devices connects directly to corporate networks. Heating and cooling providers can now monitor and adjust office temperatures remotely, and vending machine suppliers can see when their clients are out of Diet Cokes and Cheetos. Those vendors often don’t have the same security standards as their clients, but for business reasons they are allowed behind the firewall that protects a network.
Security experts say vendors are tempting targets for hackers because they tend to run older systems, like Microsoft’s Windows XP software. Also, security experts say these seemingly innocuous devices — videoconference equipment, thermostats, vending machines and printers — often are delivered with the security settings switched off by default. Once hackers have found a way in, the devices offer them a place to hide in plain sight.

Heh. Heh. Heh. (Also: remember some jerk saying “Titles like ‘Restaurant IT Guy’ or ‘SysAdmin for Daniel’ are going to become a thing, if they aren’t already.”? I didn’t even think about the “Hey, let’s put malware on the server for that Chinese place that everyone orders from! That’ll give us a back door into the Federal Reserve!” scenario.)

Al Sharpton: FBI informant.

Am I crazy?

Friday, March 14th, 2014

I know, I know, but seriously: am I crazy?

John Gruber linked to an interview with “The Setup” (“What do people use to get stuff done?”) by John McAfee. Yes, that John McAfee.

In the photo, it looks like he’s holding one of those GSG MP-5 clones in .22 LR. I’ll admit I could be wrong about that: it may be one of the Umarex guns instead, but I am 99 44/100ths percent sure it is one of those two .22LR clones. (The magazine is a dead giveaway.)

Quoth Mr. McAfee:

My tools for national security consulting are primarily a semi-auto .22 rifle with a silencer. They are virtually completely silent and can pierce car doors and other light armor. They are perfect for urban environments.

I will confess that I have not had a lot of occasion in my life to shoot through car doors. After all, I am not a tactical operator operating tactically in operations with tactics.

But a silenced .22 penetrating one? Yeah, I’m sorry. I’m going to have to see the Box of Truth or somebody shoot through a car door with a silenced .22 before I believe that.

Happy Pi Day, everyone!

Friday, March 14th, 2014

I’ve been messing around a little with QuickPi 4.5 on my free time at work; that’s a fun little program.

And here’s a Pi Day article from the LAT which includes complaints from the usual bunch of whiners who think pi should be replaced by tau. I bet these same people think Pluto isn’t a planet.

These people are why we can’t have nice things any longer.

Edited to add: So apparently, Tau Day is June 28th. Interesting. You know what else June 28th is? That’s right: Gavrilo Princip Day!

Edited to add 2:

o Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-3740QM CPU @ 2.70GHz detected
o Processor speed measured at 2.70 GHz
o Single processor with eight cores and 2-way SMT per core
o 4.0 GB of memory available
o Using custom training data

Computation of Pi to 1,073,741,824 digits
Method used : Chudnovsky
Started : Fri Mar 14 10:07:24 2014

Series size : 75713477 (1,073,741,838 digits)
Computing series, time : 2144.09
Computing final value, time : 397.05

Total time : 2541.15 seconds (42 mins, 21.15 secs)
Total memory used : 4,259,072,015 (3.97 GB)

Total disk space used : 3,319,660,544 (3.09 GB)
Time spent swapping : 198.01 (153.65 reading, 44.36 writing)

Processor utilization : 274.33%

My humps, my humps…

Friday, February 14th, 2014

A camel that escaped from a Palmdale property and began charging people and cars is now in the custody of animal control officials.


1. I admit I’ve written some bad Perl code. But I don’t recall writing any that ran away. SQL queries, yes, but not Perl code.
2. “Runaway Camel” sort of sounds like a stunt organized by those truth jackasses.
3. I have a “primates” tag; do I need a “mammals” tag?

Edited to add: I think I do need a “mammals” tag, and an associated “camels” tag. But even though primates are mammals, I don’t feel right moving the “primates” tag under the “mammals” tag, so I’m keeping them separate for now.