Friday Mar 14, 2008

Happy Pi day!

Today is "Pi day". That is, the date today is 3.14. In another the local time will be 1:59:26.535. In celebration, my daughter Sarah memorized Pi to 50 digits last night. Way to go Sarah!

Like the Indiana State legislature, Sarah's mom said that all she needed to remember was that is was 3. Just no spirit of fun.

Monday Mar 03, 2008

Granite State FIRST Robotics Challenge.

My son Nathan is a team member of the Nashua High School (North and South) FIRST robotics team. FIRST is an organization founded by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, to promote innovation and technology among kids. The FIRST Robotics Challenge is a competition held each year that pits robots built by the teams against each other in accomplishing some set task.

This years task involved taking 40 inch diameter balls around a track. The balls start out on a cross piece 6 feet above the ground. The robots get points for each time they go around the track, plus more for each time their balls go around the track and even more points if the ball goes over the cross piece. Six teams compete during each match, with three forming the "red alliance" and three forming the "blue alliance". By forming these alliances, different strategies of cooperation can be used.

The competition was held at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester NH, and took place over three days. The first day was for prep work with the matches running over the next two days. Winners at the regional contests go on to the world competition in Atlanta. I say world, because there are quite a number of teams from other countries now.

There were a lot of interesting ideas used in the robots, including one made out of wood! I have a Flickr set of the competition from Friday here.

Monday Oct 22, 2007

The Black Shirts are coming, the black shirts are coming.

Apparently it's bigger than I thought. It's a conspiracy!

Let me tell you what I'm talking about. Last week, I attended a weekly meeting while wearing a black "OpenSolaris" tee-shirt. I was teased by the other members because they detected a resemblance between myself and the Software Veep, Rich Green. Between the shirt and my unkempt gray hair, they just couldn't resist.

However, this morning a new edition of the comic "The Joy of Tech" came out and now I realize there is more to it than I thought. According to the JoT, "The Black Shirts" are an Apple creation and are either spear-heading the end of the world, or teaching elementary Apple product education, I couldn't be sure. And judging by his picture and reputation for wearing black, Rich is involved. I think I'll have to send him an email and ask some questions about the iPhone, just to be sure.

Of course, the fact that I was wearing a black shirt means that I might be a member of the conspiracy too, but I assure you that I am not. I don't even want an iPhone. But then, if I was a member of the conspiracy, I would tell you I wasn't wouldn't I? Oh, dear.

Monday Jul 02, 2007

Role playing games for kids.

You may notice a new affiliation badge in the right column of this blog. This badge is for a kid friendly role playing site called "Club Penguin".

Club Penguin is one in a growing genre of online computer games. Others in this genre include Neopets, the General Mills owned Millberry, and the Disney owned Toon Town. These are all really a suite of games wrapped in unifying virtual world, targeted at the 'Tween set.

You might notice a high level of conglomerate sponsorship here. Most of these sites are trying to instill a sense of brand loyalty very early in the consumer life cycle.

Each of these tries to provide a fun atmosphere, with a limited amount of player to player interaction. Some do not allow player to player interaction at all, while others provide either highly limited or strictly controlled interaction. Toon Town for instance requires a lot of cooperation between players for some of the games, but the players can only communicate with an extensive but innocuous menu of phrases. However, each player has a special password that they can give to friends to enable open chat capabilities. Since there is no way to give the password to someone else within the game, only those players that your child knows in real life will be able to contact your child. (however, never underestimate the ingenuity of children. Covert channels have been devised for signaling the passwords within the game.)

All in all, the games provide a lot of fun entertainment, while preparing children for the next level of virtual reality games like WOW, EverQuest, etc. I am not sure if that is a good thing, in fact I am pretty sure it is not, but I may be wrong. And fun is fun.

By the way, I do not play these games my self, although Toon Town is kind of fun to watch. But Club Penguin has discovered affinity badges and my son Joshua insisted I add one to my blog, which started this post in the first place. (By the way, Joshua's favorite character in Shrek II and III was Puss in Boots; he practices Puss's "sad eyes" look all the time, which is why I agreed to add the badge)

Wednesday May 30, 2007

You have the right to..What??

I was watching NCIS on television last night. Actually my wife was watching, I happened to walk through and catch the last 5 minutes. In the last 5 minutes the heroes manage to figure out that a cheerleader was responsible for the murder in question and they go to arrest her at her cheerleading practice. As the officer take her off screen and starts to Mirandize her, the action stays with the main characters so the reading of her rights was in the background noise.

The thing is, what I heard was "You have the right to remain silent, You have the right to do splits." I thought I must of heard wrong. Thank goodness for TIVO, though, I was able to rewind and play it again. Nope, that's what he says, "You have the right to do splits". Funny guys.

As a post script, the ending for this episode is on youtube: here

Friday Sep 15, 2006

World of Warcraft Irony

I just saw this quote about World of Warcraft:

"Ninety percent of what I do is never finished--parenting, teaching, doing the laundry," says Elizabeth Lawley (Level 60, Troll Priest), a Rochester, N.Y., college professor. "In WOW, I can cross things off a list--I've finished a quest, I've reached a new level."

The irony struck me. Maybe if you didn't spend so much time playing WOW...

Monday Aug 21, 2006

No more ice climbing.

Yesterday, my son Nathan and I took a belaying class at our local rock climbing gym, Boulder Morty's. This was a refresher course in preparation for his Bar Mitzvah party. It had been at least six months since we had been to the gym, so we thought it might be a good idea to renew our skills.

Anyway, we noticed a small change since we had last been there. They used to have a wall that was covered in white foam that was supposed to simulate ice climbing, but the foam had been removed and rocks added so that now it was the same as the rest of the rock climbing walls.

My son asked what had happened to the wall. The instructor responded with a smile, "it melted", at which point my son and I looked at each other and simultaneously exclaimed, "Global Warming!"

Wednesday Jul 20, 2005

Do you know how C pointers work?

Here is a bit of a puzzler. I have a short C program that may not work the way you think it does.


main(int argc, char \*\*argv) {
	int \*a=malloc(sizeof(int));
	int \*b=malloc(sizeof(int));
	int \*c=malloc(sizeof(int));
	/\* can you predict what will print out? \*/;
	printf("\*a=%d, \*b=%d, \*c=%d\\n",\*a,\*b,\*c);

Try compiling this and see what it does. Did it do what you thought? Do you understand why?

Sunday Jul 10, 2005

Itinerant Cranberry Pickers...

Did you know that itinerant cranberry pickers Wade Boggs and then Mo Vaughn?

Heard that last night on Says You.



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