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Monday, December 5, 2011

Megan’s running for city council!

APPLETON — Lawrence University professor Megan Pickett announced this afternoon that she will run for the Appleton Common Council’s District 4 seat next year.
Pickett said she wants to be a “progressive voice” for the newly created south-central district, which includes portions of current Districts 1, 2, 4, 8 and 11 nestled along the College Avenue Bridge corridor.
“The new districting presents a powerful opportunity for the area and the city,” Pickett wrote in a statement.
An associate professor of physics and chair of Lawrence’s Gender Studies program, Pickett said the district’s mix of community and businesses provided a “unique opportunity to work together to meet common problems and interests — including, in particular, economic development and a shared, inclusive representation of all in the region.”
“I believe the district and the larger community need more progressive voices that will work with others on the council to find areas of common agreement, while not backing away from core principles of inclusiveness and fiscal responsibility,” Pickett wrote.
Pickett was born in Madison and has been an Appleton resident for five years.
You can learn more about her by visiting her Facebook page and campaign website.
Incumbent council members Jeff Lutz, who represents current District 4, and Joe Martin, who represents current District 8, both live in the newly drawn District 4.
A primary will be held Feb. 21 if three or more people file paperwork to run for the post. The spring general election will be held April 3.
Even-numbered districts will be up for election in Appleton next year.
The Common Council approved a redistricting plan last summer that shrinks the council to 15 members from 16 members, beginning in 2013.
— Michael Louis Vinson: 920-993-1000, ext. 368, or mvinson@postcrescent.com; on Twitter @MichaelVinson

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Raptor Thanksgiving

The day after Thanksgiving, a Cooper’s Hawk stopped in the backyard with its own Thanksgiving meal, a rabbit, long enough for us to grab a few pictures.

Cooper's Hawk with dead rabbit on stump

PhotoshoppedCoopersHawkWithDinner-sketchedandpainted

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Free Invention: Police Art Auto Sketch

It’s known that people display facial cues when they recognize faces. This invention uses a computer with an attached camera to watch the users face for “recognition cues” as they look at randomly-generated faces.  When this occurs, the number of changeable facial components is reduced by one and then the random changes are resumed.  As the face becomes more recognizable, the user will generate additional facial cues which then further direct the evolution of the sketch’s facial features.

This application can be further enhanced by providing a facial-structure database that helps to direct facial feature evolution along typical racial/age lines to reduce evolution time.

This application could be enhanced by measuring cues in addition to the users facial responses, such as blood pressure, respiration, etc.

I publish these to help stave off more idiotic software-based patents.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

3-day Carne Adovada recipe

Ingredients

  • 3-5 pounds of pork shoulder cut into 1” cubes (doesn’t work well with any beef cut I’ve ever tried, but most pork cuts work just fine.)
  • 1 cup - Red Chile powder (this is where you control the level of heat you want.  I like it medium-hot (by New Mexico standards, which is probably 'hot’ by other standards), so I use 1/2 cup of medium-hot and 1/2 cup of hot powder.
  • 1/2 cup - Green Chile powder
    • Basically this is impossible to get outside of New Mexico, so order it from the store.  Get the hot stuff.  This is the other secret ingredient (besides the tequila)
  • 3-4 heads (not cloves) of minced garlic
  • Oregano, Cumin, other spices you like.  Season to taste.
  • Posole (I just buy it in cans here in the East.  The amount depends on how you like the corn-pork balance.  I discard the water in the cans.)
  • 2 tablespoons – Salt (actually, you need to experiment to get the right amount)
  • 1-2 cups of inexpensive tequila – annoyingly, the amount depends on the flavor it imparts, so you’ll have to experiment.  I generally just buy something cheap.

Infrastructure

  • A lot of space in your fridge
  • a big-ass crockpot
  • really big stainless steel mixing bowl
  • aluminum foil
  • really old clothes – you can use red chile powder to dye cloth, so wear old clothes that you don’t mind being permanently spotted

Instructions

In a stainless steel bowl (do not use glass or plastic since this recipe will etch them permanently), combine everything except the posole and maybe the spices (experiment).  Leave it in the cans if that’s the kind you’re using..  That was easy.  You’ll almost certainly want to add enough water so that everything is just covered when fully mixed.

Now put a double-layer of foil over the bowl and crimp it really tightly. 

Put it in the refrigerator.  After 24 hours, unseal and remix thoroughly.  Seal tightly.  Wait another 24 hours and repeat the procedure.  On the third day, dump the entire thing into your large crockpot and put it on low.

If you used the canned, precooked posole, dump the brine and give it a single rinse (unless you prefer it saltier).  Six hours or so into the cooking cycle, dump the posole into the crockpot.  Cook for eight hours total, until you can cut the pork easily with a wooden spoon.

Serve with tortillas, grated cheese, and sour cream.  Oh, and beer, which you’re going to need if you made the spicy version.  This will stain anything it touches, so you might want to avoid light colors.  Refrigerate the unused portions.

My experience is that the flavor changes a bit from day to day after cooking, with the best taste coming on the second day. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Life in the Stupid World

I’m going to be writing a lot, in relative terms, about what I’m doing to make the Internet of Things a reality.  I’m not here for the flying cars.  I can build my own flying cars, thanks.  No, I’m here to prevent the traffic jams which result from flying cars.  Or profit from them. Maybe both.  Regardless, I hate stupidity, and a stupid world isn’t one that’s any fun for flesh-based systems. – Lynne
The world you live in, as a human being, is deeply, terrifyingly stupid.  As stupid as biology might seem to you, the world we’ve made for ourselves is far worse.  Sure, your back hurts, and you get fevers, and kids won’t get off your damn lawn, but at least you’re capable of noticing these things, and fixing some of them.
Your house/home, the most expensive and critical component of your personal infrastructure, though, almost certainly knows next to nothing about the world.  It probably has a thermostat, but it only knows if it should be on or off.  It doesn’t know where it is.  It doesn’t know who’s inside, or what they’re doing.  It’s stupid.  I literally can’t think of a single biological entity that’s even within a couple orders of magnitude of the level of stupidity of your house.  Go ahead, ask your house something.  If you’re like most folks, you didn’t get an answer.
My house is pretty stupid, but it knows something your house probably doesn’t.  It knows how much electricity it’s using.  I have to use a web browser to ask it, but it knows.  Here’s what it just told me about the electricity we’ve used in the past two days.  It knows how much, and what the voltage was. 


How can my house know this?  Because my house has the beginnings of a nervous system.  The “sense organs” in this case are a couple of coils wrapped around the incoming main lines of the house, right at the electrical panel down in the basement.  They’re hooked to a little box that transmits information across the internal house wiring to another bigger box about the size of a fist.  That second box is a web server, and it’s plugged into the house wiring and the house network. 
Cool.
My house has graduated from inchoate stupidity to being a sub-moron.  It’s not really fair to say that, of course, any more than it makes sense to criticize a submarine for not being able to swim.  At other times in the past couple years, my house was smart enough to know what the local weather was like, and it even had eyes.  Well, an eye, which is the best way to describe the networked webcam that peers out my office window at the labyrinth.
Why is this important and why should you care?
You can ask almost anyone and they’ll be able to tell you the relative temperature.  Even babies know enough to crawl away from a fire.  My house would just sit there, although parts of it would make a loud beeping noise until they melted.  My air conditioner is especially stupid, because it pumps cold air into places where there are no people or machines who want it.  If something springs a leak, my house just sighs and rots a little bit.
It’s stupid.  Not just the house, but tolerating the situation.
What I’m doing is helping to bring about the Internet of Things.  I’m slowly learning how to best integrate sensing technologies with modern, distributed (and parallel) system architectures.  I’m helping to give the digital world a nervous system and the means to make decisions based on what it feels.
Here’s the history in a nutshell, of the things that are leading to the somewhat-less-stupid world:
  • electrical motors – and the attendant universal distribution grid
  • microprocessors  <--  THIS IS WHERE WE ARE NOW
  • ubiquitous networking <--  we’re getting there
  • sensors <--  not even close (imagine it’s 1890 in terms of distribution and density and you’ll be close to the right numbers)
  • actuators (things that can modify the world, or something’s response to the world, based on information collected by sensors and then interpreted by software)
People ask me what I do, knowing that I’m some kind of nerd computer programmer, and this is my new answer:
I’m preparing the way for the End of the Stupid World.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Steampunk dice rosary

In silver and dark Labradorite using binary encoding for my customer’s very important number.  I’m still experimenting with the best ways to photograph these, so I tried both dark and light backgrounds.
The dice are from Q-Workshop, who make a variety of interesting dice and who have been quite pleasant to deal with.  I highly recommend them.





Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rosaries for Nerds

I’ve invented a new kind of jewelry, sort of.  They’re rosaries/prayer beads for nerds and are made from gaming dice (D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D20) with beads between them.  Yeah, I know, it’s been done.  Here’s the new bit:  the beads on my designs represent numbers (e.g. Pi, E, Golden Ratio, star catalog #s) arranged either quantitatively (variable number of beads between dice) or qualitatively (using low-bit-count binary encoding.
So, yeah, I’m reasonably sure it’s the geekiest, nerdiest jewelry in existence, and it’s only going to get better (or worse, if you’re normal.)
Most of them have clasps at both ends to allow insert or attachment of new items, extensions, or fobs.  They’re strung on stranded wire for strength and use multiple mechanically-crimped connectors as seen on flying wires (on aircraft).
Yes, they’re for sale and range in price from $75-$150 (US), depending on the materials used, plus shipping.  I’ll do custom/bespoke versions as well for not much more.  Here are the questions you’ll need to answer:
  • color of the wire: at the moment, any color you want, so long as you want silver or black (still looking for other colors in the same wire gauge).
  • Color of dice: if there's a picture with the right ones, reference that
  • Color of beads: ditto (binary encoding will substitute contrasting color for whatever you select)
  • Color of separator beads: silver or gold
  • Shape of beads:  This boils down to spherical smooth, spherical faceted, cubic (roughly), or disc-like
  • number to encode: 6 digits is best, I can accommodate 7 or 8 (birthdays work well)
  • Encoding system: quantitative (0-9 beads in a row) or binary (N sets of 4-5 beads)
At some point I’ll have a web store, but for the moment just send me a message here or via my email as found at http://www.progarts.com (sorry for the external reference – trying to cut down on spam links) and I’ll get back to you.  I’ll post additional pieces as they’re finished to my Flickr set and Facebook album here:

 

Steampunk Dice with Fibonacci Sequence (1-1-2-3-5-8-13) and Celtic knotwork fob

SteampunkBone-Turquoise-Fibonacci

 

E in 4-bit binary (2-7-1-8-2-8-2) stone and onyxRedRunes-Agate-4BitEncoded-E

 

Pi (3-1-4-1-5-9-3) with natural stone beadsClearBlack-TanStone-Pi

 

Malachite Fibonacci

ClearBlack-Malachite-Fibonacci

Blue super-giant variable star companion (HDE 226868) to Cygnus X-1 in hematite, with Cthulhuian extender in snowflake obsidian, for Dr. Megan Pickett

Cygnus-226868-Megan

Primes (1-2-3-5-7-11) in antique-style dark red glass beads with speckled stone-look dice and Celtic knotwork fobLightgraySpeckledStone-AgedRedGlass-Primes