Thursday, December 17, 2009

An odd form of advertising

While sitting outside for dinner last night near the Honolulu commercial port, a large roll-on roll-off ship pulled up in the channel. It came to a stop and a large searchlight lit up the advertising for the shipping line.

Smart phones appeared at nearby tables to check out the website. Inexpensive car shipping to/from Hawaii.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Television: Drug of the nation*

Here are a few things I have learned from three weeks living with a television (my room at Lincoln Hall at UH-Manoa):

1. SyFy? The science fiction channel appears to have a new name which is different from any abbreviated form of "science fiction" that I've ever seen previously.

2. There are an impressive host of "ghost hunting" shows on SyFy, see above. The guy using an old HP spectrum analyzer with no input was especially amusingl.

3. Infomercials about a colon cleaning system? (I admit that was due to working with a postdoc here who works late nights, and then turning on the TV when I got back to my room at 2am.)

4. Paddling Hawaii and Hawaiian Skindiver shows. Never seen either before. Pretty cool.

5. That's who Glenn Beck is.

6. Corollary to #5. The man's insane.

7. Adult Swim is funny. For a few minutes at least.

8. Chef reality shows? The segment I saw had the "I want to be a chef" folks try to make bread. Few of them ever had, and the results were pretty dodgy. And someone was kicked off the kitchen island as a result.

9. MTV now shows four videos per day. And it's the same four videos each day. Silversun Pickups have a good name, but are pretty dull.

10. There are three Peanuts/Charlie Brown Christmas specials.

I admit that writing about TV reminds me of priests talking about sex or shipwrecked sailors discussing navigation, but what else are blogs for?

* Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rewards in parenting

This weekend, my daughters and I worked on a new super-crazy fast snow sled (built up on old cross country skis) and an ice boat (sail, mast, seats, and runners). Sylvia was working with me and asked "how did you learn to build stuff?" I answered, truthfully, "by working with, and watching, my dad." She smiled broadly. Mara reports that with the sled and boat that "this is going to be the best winter ever." I melt.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Things which should exist, but don't seem to

A right angle adapter for an IEC power connector. You have lots of those power cords in a box in the basement, but sometimes you need a right angle power cord. Sure, they exist, in both right angle "sideways" and right angle to the back, but how about a universal adapter? Should cost cents to make, sell for a couple of dollars. I could use a few. And right angle USB adapters?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Want to add to your Netflix queue?

Every Doc Film shown through 2008. (It's an Excel file.) Doc Films is the University of Chicago "Documentary Film" society which shows, well, films of all sorts. Relive the Jackie Chan festival of Fall 1994 if you like. Good stuff!

Friday, September 18, 2009

IKEA's Secret Annex

Inspired by the discovery of the IAEA's secret annex of documentation of Iran's nuclear weapons program, we have the first reports of the contents of IKEA's secret annex.

1. Meatballs gone very bad
2. The guy who makes the 59 cent superbags (which turn out to be excellent inflatable kayak bags by the way)
3. The remains of the store employee who installed the shortcuts through the showroom
5. The 1970s
6. The springie in my bungie

Darn, this is hard, why oh why can't I come up with more?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A true Craigslist classic

1,325 Pope Hats

Because of this terrible economy, I'm having to shut down my business. I have OVER 1300 Pope hats (replicas) that I REALLY need to get rid of. The pope hats came from China and are a little too small for most adult heads and are also irritating to the skin, so you would need to have long hair or wear a smaller hat underneath (just like the REAL POPE). Dogs do not like to wear these pope hats, but maybe a large cat or maybe a nice dog would wear one. My dogs will not but they are not very nice and always hate being dressed up like for Halloween when we tried to dress them up like batman but they became very very agitated and bit a neighbors kid. I will lock the dogs up when you come get all of these pope hats.

My wife is a devout catholic and she finds the presence of all of these pope hats all over the house to be blasphemous. I have pope hats in every closet, pope hats under the sing, pope hats full of other pope hats. She will not stop talking to me about getting rid of the pope hats and has started lighting candles all over the house for my soul but these pope hats are extremely flammable so its a problem in my house (there are pope hats everywhere)

I payed 10x what I'm asking for when I bought these pope hats. I still think there is a market for them maybe when the economy turns around. Act NOW! Don't miss this great deal! I have 1,325 total (I counted this morning). 3 of them have some dog bites and one of them is burnt to a crisp, but you can take that one or leave it. Bring 2-3 strong friends.

  • Location: Tempe
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mathematics of body surfing

This was the result of a long, and odd, series of searches for a completely unrelated topic. PDF article.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cornelius Cardew's Treatise

One of the most impressive scores ever produced, Cornelius Cardew's Treatise is 193 pages of graphical notation hinting at music to be performed. The instructions for the ensemble are "for any number of musicians with any instruments, may be performed in whole or in part." Sonic Youth and the Ensemble 303 have recently popularized this piece to some extent. An early, 1967, recording by the QUaX Ensemble (highly regarded by Cardew) is now available again as well, see amazon link below.

I won't repeat information easily available online from A Young Person's Guide to Treatise, probably the best single spot for information both on Cardew and Treatise itself. You should check your local library for a copy of Treatise and Treatise (Handbook).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Cash-For-Clunkers (CFC) scam

Okay, I have to admit that it initially sounded like a plausible scheme to me, even if it was obviously intended to help out the car dealers and manufacturers since it was limited to purchasing new cars. But what's also happening is that perfectly reasonable used vehicles are being deleted from the used car inventory. The engines in the traded in cars have to be destroyed and then the vehicles scrapped. Okay, maybe this makes sense if you're picturing a clapped-out Buick with a bad exhaust being destroyed, but that's not all that's happening...

A BMW 735i engine being run to destruction to comply with the requirements.

A Volvo S80 T6 hanging on to life for a while.

So here it is, relatively recent cars are being destroyed with our government's money to give a discount to the purchase of new, slightly more efficient cars and trucks. But what about the environmental and economic costs of the new construction? Move along now, nothing to see here.

A large fraction of the so-called clunkers are actually modern, relatively non-polluting, and well-running vehicles. This isn't getting rid of the nasty polluting old cars, just thinning the good used car market. That's a newer, nicer car than mine (the Volvo) and gets better fuel economy than most any SUV or truck out in suburbia.

If you had a 17MPG pickup, you could use the money to buy a (new) 19MPG SUV.

Absolutely insane. Next up, a bailout for the US insurance and glass industry by handing out rocks to be thrown through windows.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blast from the (weird) past

An email I received today...

I found on the internet a note you posted about a tunnel from Puerto
Rico to Spain. (

You were requesting more information and you mentioned a lady from
Cabo Rojo had given you an article about it.

I live in western Puerto Rico and never heard of such tunnel. I
passed your link to a colleague from Cabo ROjo and he doesn't know
anything about it.

Do you have more details on this?

Just curious....Miguel

Miguel A. Pando, Ph.D., P.Eng.
Associate Professor, Geotechnical Group
Civil Engineering Department
University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez
Mayagüez, PR
787-832-4040 Exts. 3434 or 3718
* New e-mail address:

It's been very surprising to me how often folks get in touch with me about this... :)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Research advisor genealogy

My Ph.D. thesis (1996 Chicago) adviser was John A. Simpson (1943 NYU) whose adviser was Serge Korff (1931 Princeton) whose adviser was John Quincy Stuart (1919 Princeton). He was a student of H. L. Cook and Karl Taylor Compton (1912 Princeton), the latter of whom studied under John Whitmore.

Monday, June 1, 2009

On hiking with seven ten year olds

Man, they have a lot of energy! We did part four (or maybe five) of the twins' birthday party with a picnic, games, and a hike at Hoffman Hills State Park in Wisconsin. We hit all of the high points: raging fire, two different cakes, hot dogs, jalapeno slices, and a climb to the top of the observation tower. Some of the gals gave the big people a lesson in fieldcraft when they successfully hid, let us pass, and then shadowed us on the trail back from the tower.

On race and pets

So, my next door neighbor got a little white yappy dog early this Spring. It's sometimes tied out in the yard during the day making little yap sounds and snarling ineffectively when someone walks near. A couple of weeks ago, I was outside when the owner was there along with the dog. I asked the name of the dog and reached over to pet it. "Whitey" was the answer and "the dog bites." I've noticed that the owner frequently kicks the dog and throws things at it as well. Today I heard her calling to the dog, not "whitey" but "honkie." I burst out laughing, but am still annoyed with her treatment of the dog.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Analyzing the Flickr location tags...

I just ran across this article in New Scientist, but have been thinking a lot about the use of geotagged photos and some possible expansions to it. With just location, it's interesting to view a set of photos, just what are people taking pictures of at the Apple Store in Manhattan? It's the fifth most photographed (and geotagged) place on Earth. Is it the facade? Inside? Most of the GPS-based automatic image tagging devices wouldn't work inside the store. And although there's a lot of interesting data here, it can't really be used for an immersive experience since there's no pointing information at all. Let's think of the Washington Monument, some photos are outside, classic tourist shots of the monument, some are facing away from it, catching other aspects of DC, and some are from the top looking around. Image if each image had orientation data associated with it, a fluxgate compass as well as the GPS location, then you could tie a large number of images into, say, Google Maps, and move around in a collage of photos. Okay, this still doesn't work inside too well, but for outside it would pretty spectacular. You could walk 42nd Street in photos at Christmas-time last year, or watch the parade go by.

The next step after that would either be computer detection of the horizon-line in the image (I didn't bother to Google the efforts that must be going on in that direction) or tilt sensors in the camera. With focal length data, position, pointing, and tip/tilt, each photograph would be a capture of a well-defined piece of the world at that time. A 3-D immersive virtual reality of collected photos, might be a nifty thing?

So, hardware-wise, what does this look like? Well, GPS, 3-axis magnetometer, and 2 absolute angle sensors are just a couple of chips and some MEMS. Might be able to add in a low-power inertial navigation unit using fiber optic gyroscopes in version two. That should keep the position information good within a walk through a building letting you get your tagged full-orientation photos of the inside of the Sistine Chapel and the Louvre.

Friday, April 24, 2009

China Mieville's new book, The City & The City

I just posted a review for it on amazon. The book will be out late in May, and it's pretty darned good. The City & The City. I've become a big fan after reading Perdido Street Station a few years back, and returning to it last year and then devouring his other books. China Mieville books on Amazon.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Cosmic Ray Deflection Society

I just noticed the news on Slashdot that Yahoo is closing down Geocities. Yeah, I know that means the end of many horribly structured websites, many of them contenders in the bad design competitions, but it also means that the Cosmic Ray Deflection Society will need to move its website. Maybe they know that, but aren't completely transitioned yet. My research was in cosmic rays (and neutrinos) and I was proud to feature photos from the CRDS (as I acronymed them, used to acronyming many things for NASA TLA purposes).

Any local Minneapolis people out there? Interested in a cosmic-ray-deflecting-hat making party? Maybe in time for the May Day parade?

The greatest drinking game

"Bunnies" from Tiki Bar TV.

Speaking of Amazon...

I have a good number of online lists, mostly of weird items. My Amazon lists. Though there are always new and interesting amazon oddities that I have missed.

My cosmic ray research monograph is still in print it appears

It was a rushed business, and one that I'm not completely happy with. And the publisher isn't so good about royalties...

Everyone watch out for GAY BANDS!

Yep, the folks at Love God's Way are giving us a fair warning. There are Gay Bands out there and they're recruiting children via internet mp3 piracy. Oh the horror of it all!

We have such gems as: Ted Nugent (loincloth), George Michael (texan), and the brilliant pairing of Michael Jackson with the Boredoms. (Brilliant and loud Japanese noise musicians for the philistines out there.)

My favorite part is where they call for parents to burn the CDs in front of their impressionable off-spring. Which would what? Teach children about toxic gases emitted from burning plastics?

If you're up for it, their listing of safe bands is nearly as funny. Cyndi Lauper, Blondie, and the Dresden Dolls?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NPR on the history of the Ghetto Blaster

It's time for monster bunny rabbits

To save the starving North Koreans no less.

Harvestore silo challenge

Okay, here's a pesky question that shows up whenever driving through farm country. So you know the bright blue Harvestore (oxygen-limiting) silos that are relatively common. Some of them have large US flag decals up near the tops of them. In the Jane Smiley novel A Thousand Acres, it's mentioned that the Harvestore dealer puts that flag up on the silo when it's paid off. I've heard that version elsewhere as well, but there does not seem to be any justification for that story on the web.

Normally I have the Google-Fu but on this one, no luck in my searches. So here's the challenge, can you find if that story is true using only the Internet. (Sure, you could call Jane Smiley or the local Harvestore dealer, but let's stay online for this one.)

It's also interesting to note that lots of farmers are selling off their silos and the Harvestores are mostly headed to Scandanavia.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Interconnects for Dr. DuVernois's online life

My web pages are up and running at This blog is in addition to my ramblings on Facebook (current) and Myspace (previous) as well as my professional personae on LinkedIn. Oi! It's complicated.

TG in the States

It may no longer be 1980, but Throbbing Gristle has returned. Do attend one of the American tour dates if possible.

Christ Carter has also posted some tour photos on flickr.

Monday, April 20, 2009

xkcd coming to dead trees near you

Romance, sarcasm, language, and math.

RIP: J. G. Ballard

Probably the best obituary for one of the greatest writers of the 20th century (no need for the science fiction adjective in there, especially as it's assumed to be a pejorative) is simply the pairing of his Assassination of JFK Considered as a Downhill Motor Race with its progenitor, Jerry's Crucifixion tale. Okay, and you need to read The Voices of Time if you haven't previously.

If you need a more traditional obit, let me recommend the rapidly updated Wikipedia article.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazon: amazonfail

Well, probably everyone has heard about Amazon's big PR disaster from the weekend. Bunches of feminist, LGBT, and other books lost their book ranking (and hence would not show up near the top of searches) due to being labeled as "adult" material. Plenty of other materials that were obviously adult in nature escaped the purge.

You know, there's just no way this was anything other than a screwup. This is Amazon, big book (and everything else) seller to men, women, gay, and straight. There's no way that they're going to censor (see the next paragraph for a discussion of whether this is censorship) such work. As one of my colleagues pointed out, things are either a conspiracy or a cockup. I'm going for the latter on this one unless some evidence that a crack squad of hackers working for Jerry Falwell's crowd hacked Amazon.

Aha! Censorship in the age of distributed knowledge. Is it censorship to push items down the search results? It's not exactly the same as the closed stacks, the books hidden away, but it's mighty close. How do we look for things? With google of course. And with amazon if we're talking about books. If it's not in the first page, it only sort of exists. Ten thousand entries down? Long tail or not, it's hidden away.

Blog import

Well, I got all sorts of errors with the blog import. Gave up on it for the time being. I have the Movable Type export converted to Blogger .xml format (thanks to the Google app tools), but the uploads kept failing. Will try again some other time when I can dedicate more mental energy to it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Well, here we are, my new blog

I formerly had blog postings on Movable Type at the University of Minnesota, and on MySpace and Facebook. Will try to import those old entries and build from here...