Friday Sep 23, 2005

mmm... curly...

I just won a fund-raiser auction for some guitar-building wood. You can see it here. Tasty! The money is going to help Hurricane Katrina victims. If you're interested in building musical instruments, be sure to check out the MIMF (musical instrument maker's forum), who's sysop arranged this and some other fundraisers.


Thursday Sep 15, 2005

Movie mini-review

Steam Boy (Katsuhiro Otomo)

I give this movie about 7/10. The basic plot is a typical alternative-history Victorian setting sci-fi, involving masses of steam-powered war machines. It is an animated move.

I'll get the moaning over with first. The story is not that strong, and some quite severe suspension of disbelief is required for those of us with real knowlege of heavy engineering. Furthermore, the philosophy espoused by the characters is rather simplistic.

With that out of the way, I have to say I did enjoy the movie, mainly because of the visuals. A mixture of CGI and cel animation was used, and I thought it was stunning. There was only one short scene where I thought the CGI detracted from the look (which was where the mechanical hand was grabbing for Steam Boy as he flew around in the boiler room). I'm not sure if all the backgrounds were CGI, or if some of them were hand-painted. But some of the street scenes were simply stunning, and the details of many of the mechanisms were similarly amazing.

I watched this on pay-per-view TV, and I intend to buy the DVD so that I can geek out over the artwork some more.

Wednesday Sep 14, 2005

Comets are crumbly

Nature is reporting that analysis of the Deep Impact results has shown that the nucleus of a comet has very little cohesion. Its a very weakly bound aggregate of grains, held together mostly by gravity. So when you think of the "dirty snowball" model, don't think of a ball that's been moulded in your hand, think more of falling snow.

Monday Sep 12, 2005

My dog's got no nose

I'm anosmic. I really have no sense of smell at all. I can't smell ammonia, or chlorine, or anything. I've been that way since I was born, but some people become anosmic after head injuries or illness. The incidence of congenital anosmia is not not known, and it's not something that often comes up in conversation. It tends not to be too noticable to other people. I just heard from an online friend about a discussion forum for people with congenital anosmia. For those interested, it is here.


Friday Sep 09, 2005

Bands I wish I'd seen

Bands I could have seen, but didn't:

  • Queen
  • Led Zeppelin
  • The Who
  • Frank Zappa

Bands I couldn't have seen, but still wish I had:

  • The Beatles
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • Big Brother & the Holding Company

Thursday Sep 08, 2005

Oh Ahhnold, how could you?

Well, the governor vetoed the gay marriage bill. So now I can't have your magic "M" word, could you at least leave me my domestic partner rights? For pity's sake Californians, don't approve SA2005RF0077, Amdt. #2-NS. Does it really harm anyone for me to have the right to visit the love of my life if he is dying in hospital?

Wednesday Sep 07, 2005

Further progress on the guitar buillding

In a flurry of bandsaw mahem over the last couple of days, I cut out the body shape from a 2" (nominal) swamp ash blank. I've rough-carved it to profile, and I intend to clean it up with rasps and abrasive paper. I had to put a narrower blade on my Rikon 18" bandsaw in order to accomodate the fairly tight curves of the body shape. Next step will be to thin it a little, since I want the body to be slightly under 2" when complete, and it has to have a quilted maple cap applied yet.


Thursday Sep 01, 2005

no-blog Thursdays

I had this impression that Thursday was the day I've been least likely to blog — whether due to not having anything to say, or just from forgetting. But a quick look at the evidence suggests otherwise. Considering only work days, Thursday is a perfectly "ordinary" day. Look:


That just goes to show you shouldn't necessarily trust your instinct about statistical matters. I was biased by recent events, where I forgot one Thursday, and only remembered at the last minute the following Thursday.


Tuesday Aug 30, 2005

Product of the week

Product of the week: Green & Black's chocolate. A favourite from "the old country", now available on a regular basis in California.

Monday Aug 29, 2005

Wildfire near Palm Springs

This weekend, a wildfire broke out in the one of the canyons on the west side of Mount San Jacinto. During the day on Saturday, it spread over the ridge from Blaisdell Canyon into Chino Canyon. Chino Canyon is where the aerial tram is located, and is the canyon we can see from our back yard. It doesn't look like it is taking a hold in Chino Canyon right now, but the main part of the blaze is nowhere near controlled yet, so who knows. We were actually up the tram on Saturday morning, before the park was closed, and after we got back down, we drove along Highway 111 to see if we could see the fire. There were a number of helicopters dropping water on the fire, and they have been working all weekend. The pilots have my deepest respect. They are brave and skilled, and probably don't get paid enough. There are also said to be 800 firefighters working on the ground at the moment, in 110F + degree heat (43 C).

This is the closest we've been to any of the Southern California wild fires since we've lived here. Fortunately, we live inside city limits, and the town itself is not yet threatened. Now that it is dark, I can see flames with my binoculars from the back yard.

Steve took some photos of the firefighters at work on Saturday, which are here. There's a nice shot of a Sikorski Sky Crane, which we saw taking on water from a pond in a tight landing zone.


Friday Aug 26, 2005

Experiential vs material purchases

A study a couple of years ago suggested that people on average are happier after experiential purchases than after material purchases. That is, spending money on things like vacations, live entertainment, and so on is more likely to make a person happy than buying new clothes, ornaments or gadgets. I don't think I spend much on experiential purchases — maybe I should consider doing more along those lines. Of course, many of my purchases are "mixed" in some sense - I buy a bicycle, but the point is not just to have the cool new bicycle, but also to ride the heck out of it. I do buy a National Parks pass every year, and this year we bought season tickets for the Palm Springs aerial tram. We're planning on going up there tomorrow for a hike, and since it's months since we spent the money, it will seem like it is free. Cool! I think the next step will be to hunt out some decent live music. We'll see.

Thursday Aug 25, 2005

Tool lust

I want one of these. I have a number of cheaper planes, and they work fine, although I had to spend quite a long time tuning them. They say that the Lie-Nielsen tools are pretty-much ready to go when they come out of the box. Just a gentle honing of the blade and you're away. If I don't have to spend 6 hours with sandpaper and a glass surface, and another 2 hours with my sharpening stones, does that make this a bargain? Is 8 hours of my hobby time worth a couple of hunded bucks? I think maybe it is. If my hobby was fixing up planes that would be one thing. But I just want to use them to make stuff. So every hour I spend tuning a cheap plane is an hour I don't spend building a guitar. On the other hand, its two hundred bucks less wood I would buy. Tricky balancing act. I suppose I'm lucky I can even think about spending that much on a hobby item, really.

Tuesday Aug 23, 2005

About becoming a citizen of the USA

Although this blog entry has pointers to some good information, I'd like to say that you don't need software or third-party services to become naturalized. In my opinion, the place to start if you are interested in becoming a citizen is the USCIS (US Citizenship and Imigration Services) website. Provided you meet the criteria, all you have to do is print out the appropriate form from the USCIS's web site, fill it in, and send it together with your check. Then download and study the History and the Civics peparation guides from the same government web site, sit back and wait for your interview. I won't say its a fast process, or deny that interview day is nerve-wracking. But I did it without paying anyone except the Federal Government any money.

Sunday Aug 21, 2005

Some progress on the guitar-building front

I made a little progress on my guitar-building project. (Note the projected time-scale in that post. Hollow laugh...). I rough-carved the neck, from a too-thick rectangular plank down to a nice curvy thing. The volute and heel obviously still need some work, but I'm quite proud of myself. This part was actually a lot easier than I thought it might be, and was quite fun. I mainly used a microplane rasp and a card scraper, with a little help from a spokeshave to knock the initial corners off. Below are a few pictures of the rough-carved neck. As you can see, I haven't decided what shape to make the headstock yet. It certainly won't be an exact copy of a Tele®.

Thanks to Steve for the photos.

Friday Aug 19, 2005

Me too!

According to technorati that wizard genetics letter in Nature that I blogged about was a highly popular blog subject. So kudos to Jeffrey M. Craig, Renee Dow and MaryAnne Aitken for their entertaining and thought-provoking correspondence.





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