Friday, April 29, 2005

Rim Of The World 2004 photos

Pretending I'm a rally racer.
Originally uploaded by IvyMike.
To my disappointment, I'm going to be out of town next week during the Rim Of The World Rally. I went to the 2004 rally and took some not-very-good photos of one of the "Super Special Stages." I figured I might as well post those photos now.

It was the first rally I had ever been to, and I wasn't sure what to expect. You're allowed to walk around in the pit area, and I wish I had gotten some photos of the pit crews frantically working on broken-down cars. I also wish I had brought sunscreen.

The super special stages are exciting because even though everyone is racing against the clock, during a super-special stage two cars are running at once. But next time I'll be sure to attend one of the wilderness stages of the race, instead of just staying at the artificial track at the fairgrounds.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Ubiquitous Google Instant Messenger: IAC

Deny its existence if you must, Google, but the entire internet thinks you're cooking up some good mojo for a Google Instant Messenger (GIM). I'm going to cut to the front of the "Suggest An Improvement" line and suggest and improvement before the product is even announced!

Here's my idea: When you release GIM, also release a free GIM library, with an easy-to-use API, and encourage online games to integrate some GIM functionality into their game's chat systems. Do everything you can to make GIM chat messages go everywhere.

I've been playing Guild Wars, a MMORPG, ever since they started offering "Open beta weekends". They're going to release the final game soon, and anyone who preordered is able to start playing right now. I might be able to find some of my friends playing online right now. But I would have to log in first to see their game status. That doesn't take long, but is a little annoyance, and I'm not going to bother.

Heck, even if they are playing, they might be quitting soon or off on a quest I can't join. Without starting Guild Wars, I could fire off an instant message or email to check, but if they're involved in the game, they might not see the message at all (and the audio cue might be lost in the normal sounds of the game).

Imagine if I could look in my always-running GIM buddy list and see an entry that said, "Bob (GUILD WARS)". I use GIM to message Bob, "Hey, feel like doing some quests?". Bob sees the message in the normal Guild Wars message interface. He types "/whisper IvyMike Hey, whazzup!!!1!", using the normal in-game chat commands, and the message goes back to my GIM window.

Or imagine I'm playing Guild Wars, but I'm able to chat with my friends playing World of Warcraft, and it all works seamlessly without either of us leaving our own game's interface. Imagine I get could see my Gmail new mail alerts without leaving the game. (Did I forget to mention the tight Gmail integration that will ship as a part of GIM?) If enough developers integrate GIM into their games, then the killer feature of GIM is that it is ubiquitous.

I'm not suggesting that GIM be used as a replacement for existing chat systems in games (although that might work for some games); I am suggesting that it should be possible to send chat messages into and out of games, using GIM.

My best stab at a short catchphrase to describe it to the suits: "Inter-Application Chat."

Monday, April 25, 2005

My cardboard WiFi antenna project

Unskinned WiFi antenna, standing up.
Originally uploaded by IvyMike.
Here's a photoblog of a cardboard and foil WiFi antenna that I designed last year. After building and testing it, I ultimately rejected it, but it took a lot of work and looks cool, so I kept the photos. Maybe it will inspire someone else to create something more practical.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Mapping Geotagged Flickr Images

On Friday, had a link to an article by Steve Outing which suggested combining Google Maps with A9's storefront view. Andy's comment on the link: "someone please do this."

I've been thinking about a similar tool since I first learned about Flickr: Why not query Flickr for all geotagged images, and put pushpin-style links to them on top of a Google map?

As it turns out, Mikel Maron's done something awfully close to that already. It's a custom Flash-based map, and he grabs photos from Flickr using a combination of EXIF GPS data and explicit geotags to gather the photos. Sweet!

Gigantic Mosquito Eater

Gigantic Mosquito Eater
Originally uploaded by IvyMike.
Boing Boing had a link today featuring cool macro-focus photos of bugs. Since I started using Flickr, I've started using my camera more, and I wanted to relearn how to use the macro mode on my camera. I grabbed my camera and ran outside hoping I could find an interesting insect to photograph.

I did not expect this monster of a skeeterhawk to be literally feet outside of my door, on the wall of my apartment. I apologize for the bad angle, but the mosquito eater was high on a wall above a staircase. I was a little afraid that if I woke it up and it came at me, I might freak out and tumble down the stairs. Or that he might rough me up and take my wallet.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

When Beer Attacks

When Beer Attacks, Part 1
Originally uploaded by IvyMike.
I've had the first big problem with my homebrew: some of my beers are undergoing late fermentation in the bottle. The yeast did not ferment enough sugar out of the beer before I bottled, and are now slowly working through the remaining sugar, churning out more carbon dioxide.

My friend tipped me off that Batch 7 was having problems, and since I hadn't had one in a while, I tried one tonight. This one is a gusher. In the worst case, the carbonation will continue to build, and the beers will explode with disastrous results.

In theory, this shouldn't be a problem for my latest beers; starting with Batch 9, I've started making a "beer starter" and oxygenating the beer, both of which should encourage healthy yeast that will finish fermentation quickly.

Update: I just noticed that my friend was talking about Batch 8, not Batch 7! If you have any of these beers, be careful, and know that the clock is ticking. KABOOM!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

My balcony was stolen!

My balcony
Originally uploaded by IvyMike.
How do you remove the floor of a balcony, like happened to my apartment this morning? The answer appears to involve 7 am and a loud circular saw.


Monday, April 18, 2005

The Enthusiast's Guide To Pulsejets

Pulsejet Book, by Bruce Simpson (A guest on Scrapheap Challenge and Junkyard Wars): "A step-by step video shows you how to build this pulsejet for around $20 using just regular hand- tools. That's right, no welder or lathe is required."


Sunday, April 17, 2005

The 2004-2005 brewing season is over.

I brewed the last beer of the year two weeks ago; the summertime heat in my apartment isn't conducive to good yeast growth, so I'm declaring the season over. To close out the season in style, I made a mead yesterday, and it will sit in my carboy through the summer. (The mead should be ready by next Christmas!)

I'm going to be blogging individual batches as I taste them, so that I can have photos. Those waiting to be blogged are:

Batch 8: Nut Brown Ale
Batch 9: belligerent S.O.B. (An Arrogant Bastard clone beer)
Batch 10: Belgian Dubbel. (A 10% monster)
Batch M1: "Mead 1", a Orange Blossom Semi-Sweet Mead.

Conjeo Valley Hike, April 2005.

Up from Triunfo Canyon Park
Originally uploaded by IvyMike.
Photoblog of a short hike through the Conejo Valley. It's April, so the hills are green and overgrown; I'll take another set of these in August, and you'll see the difference.

The photoblog is on Flickr; click "Next" (on the right side of each page) to continue. Or you can view the hike as a slideshow, but then you miss out on my comments.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Batch 7: Tupelo Honey Porter

Tupelo Honey Porter
Originally uploaded by IvyMike.
Another partial mash kit from Seven Bridges. I used this kit as an excuse to order some tupelo honey from L.L. Lanier & Sons. I added a pound and a half to the standard kit.

  • Brew Day 2/14/2005, OG 1.060 (7.6% ABV). That's right where the bare kit is supposed to be, prior to my addition of honey.
  • Moved to secondary 2/20/2005, 1.025 (3.4 ABV)
  • Bottled 3/13/2005, 1.025 (3.4 ABV). I'm suspicious.

Final alcohol content 4.2% ABV.

I'm a little suspicious of the final gravity, so the actual final gravity might have been a bit lower.

I tried a few of these late March, and really wasn't happy with the results; it was under-carbonated and a little sweet. But the one I tried a few days ago was much better. I can't tell if the honey made much difference, but I'm hoping in a month or so this will mature nicely.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Potato Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies

Potato Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies
Originally uploaded by IvyMike.
I made the legendary Potato Chip Chocolate Chip cookies this weekend. They turned out great! (Ok, I actually mixed the batter a lot, so the cookie dough itself was overmixed and the texture of the cookies is lame, but that's my fault, and has nothing to do with the potato chips.)

The cookie on the left is a little bit darker; with later cookies, I mixed a little cocoa in to see how much cocoa you need in the dough before you can perceive a chocolatey flavor. Turns out you need quite a bit.

This lead me to my next great idea: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies with Cayenne Chille! Sounds a little crazy, but you can make great hot chocolate by adding a dash of cayenne pepper. Why shouldn't it work for cookies, too?

Update, 12/15/2005: For some reason, I'm getting a lot of search engine hits on this post right now. If you're looking for the recipe I used to make these cookies, check out this earlier post of mine. Or if you're too lazy to click through, just replace the nuts in the standard toll-house cookie recipe with the same amount of slightly crushed Ruffles. It's that easy!.

I've made them a few times since I posted this back in April, and they're really quite good!

Update 2, 12/15/2005: If you're one of the many people who found my website today, I'm curious what prompted you to search for this. Were potato chip chocolate chip cookies mentioned on a TV show? Leave a comment and let me know.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

ETY*COM phone headset review

Ety.Com package and headset
Originally uploaded by IvyMike.
About a month ago, Chris DiBona called the "ETY*COM" headset the "The perfect earpiece from the perfect manufacturer." I had been looking for a good phone headset for a while, but I hated every one I tried. They were either an odd fit on my ear, or the sound quality of the microphone sucked any nobody could hear me.

I tried to purchase the headset direct from Etymotic Research's website, but as it turns out, their web purchasing was broken. I ended buying it for a little less from the "Earplug Super Store". I expect my endorsement check soon, guys.

If you're not familiar with Etymotic Research, they make earphones that actually fit inside your ear canal, like an earplug. It's a weird concept, but they get respect.

The ETY*COM headset works the same way. It was an odd sensation the first few times I used it, but now that I've been using it for a week, it's perfectly natural. It comes in a minimalistic package, but that's fine, because it's a minimalistic headset. And though it's small, it feels like it's made of high quality components.

The headset is great. People say that I "sound quieter", but based on experiments leaving messages on my own voicemail, I think the sound quality is better, and people don't seem to have problems understanding me. The earpiece sound quality is just about perfect. Since it's in your ear canal, it blocks out most other sound. With the noise reduction on the microphone, you might be able to use the headset in noisier environments than you think.

It's a little expensive, but given the other headsets I bought and don't use, this is a much better deal.

Ety.Com package and headset
Originally uploaded by IvyMike.

I hadn't seen any photos of the packaging on any of the reviews on the web, so I took a few of my own. The headset has a 2.5mm plug, which is pretty standard: it works with my Samsung cell phone as well as my Panasonic cordless phones.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Road rash treatment in the Y2K5.

I scraped my leg hiking this weekend--the injury looks like a bad case of road rash. I went with the "just let it scab over" treatment, but if I had these products available, I probably would have went with Tegaderm or DuoDERM. Both products are expensive, but apparently they work well.

I might end up ordering some for future use anyways.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Los Angeles Survival Research Labs show

SRL Robots. My phonecam sucks.
Originally uploaded by IvyMike.
On Friday, my brother sent me a link to the Los Angeles Survival Research Labs show on Saturday:

If you don't go to that you are a fool.

I had already seen a link to the show on Boing Boing, so with two endorsements, I definitely had to go.

It was a little adventure getting there; the directions to Dangerous Curve say "Get off the 101 at Alameda", and when it turned out the Alameda exit was closed, my carefully memorized directions went out the window. Let's just say I broke more traffic laws than I ever thought I would. Eventually I found where I was supposed to go, and followed the throngs of hipsters to the show.

A large crowd had already formed, and we stood around jockeying for viewing position, listening to the weird mechanical howl of the machines warming up, and watching the artists getting ready for the show. I noticed that the artists all had some serious hearing protection, as did most of the crowd. A few minutes later, the crew passed out earplugs to the rest of us, raising the suspense level even more.

The show started with the launch of four military-style flares, sky-high. My view of the show was blocked by the crowd, so it's a little difficult for me to tell if there was some kind of narrative, but here are some things that I saw:
  1. Half a dozen mechanized torsos, squirming around the 'battlefield'.
  2. A three-story tall wooden trojan horse having its wooden legs destroyed from under it.
  3. The same trojan horse reduced to a pile of cinders.
  4. A robotic hovercraft with massive heated, glowing, fire-spewing airhorns.
  5. Something I would describe as a giant "baseball-pitching machine" that I think was going to shoot two-by-fours (My view of that was blocked, so I never actually saw any in flight. But that machine had some serious kinetic energy in the flywheels, so I didn't mind having some bodies between me and the machine.)
  6. Another hovercraft, this one piloted by humans, Mad Max style. The craft bellowed a thick white cloud of noxious kerosene-smelling smoke on the crowd.
  7. A six-legged walking vehicle as big as my car stomping around in the background.
  8. Lots of flame and smoke and random projectiles way back out of my field of vision. I think lots of cool stuff was going on that I missed. Sorry, I wish I had seen it all too.

The cannon had a "Miller Lite" sticker on it.
Originally uploaded by IvyMike.

But the visuals weren't even the half of it. Sweet Zombie Jesus, the noise! There were blasts of pure bass that rumbled my gut. The robotic heated airhorn craft I mentioned above generated a throaty growl that made my kneecaps shake. There was a giant, swiveling cannon that fired giant belches that were so loud that it ceased to be noise at all, and instead became a physical impact on your body. This cannon was fired directly at the crowd several times, causing most people to duck, thus giving me my only unobstructed views of the show.

The net result is that the mechanical grinding, screeching, humming, fire, smoke, explosions, kerosene stench, random destruction, and being actually fired upon make for a pretty intimidating performance. I asked myself, "Is this stuff safe?" several times during the show.

At some point, the show ended, although it didn't feel like there was any obvious "finale moment". The crowd cheered, but we could all hear that the fire alarms in the Dangerous Curve building were going off from the smoke that had billowed back inside. This must have triggered a response from the fire department, because a minute later, firemen were threading their way through the crowd.

Fireman looks on in disbelief
Originally uploaded by IvyMike.

The audience started to disperse, and some people started crossing the barriers to get a close look at the robots. It seemed like this was OK, because a few SRL staff saw this and didn't seem to care. But then a minute later, someone got on a bullhorn and proclaimed something to the effect of, "Folks, thanks for coming out, but we're in trouble here, because we didn't inform the fire department about the show and didn't have a fire marshall on the scene. Please move back behind the barriers so we don't get in any more trouble." I guess the show was more underground than I thought.

LA Fire Truck
Originally uploaded by IvyMike.

I hung around for a few more minutes, but it seemed pretty clear the fire department wasn't going to let anything else cool happen, so I left. As I wandered away, I passed by a small group of firemen and heard one of them say in disbelief, "...I didn't know WHAT the heck that was..." I'm not sure if he was referring to a particular robot, or the whole show. Either way, it made me smile.

Bush hints that the Aliens aren't Catholic

CBS News | Bush: Pope A 'Hero For The Ages' | April 2, 2005 18:00:03: "Laura and I join people across the earth in mourning the passing of Pope John Paul II. The Catholic Church has lost its shepherd, the world has lost a champion of human freedom, and a good and faithful servant of God has been called home. "

I mean, why else didn't he just say "people across the world" and "champion of freedom"?