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July 2006 Archives

Latest Electronic Voting Machine Security Flaw

Yet another Diebold electronic voting machine flaw has been discovered. This one lets you easily replace the software on the machine with a screwdriver and a flip of a switch. Link via /.

Putting photos in perspective

This is a pretty cool research project from folks at University of Washington and Microsoft Research called Photosynth. The idea is to take a whole bunch of photos of the same location and automatically figure out where in 3D space each one was taken, and how they relate to each other. It's kinda hard to explain but go to that link and watch the video in the "Paper and video" section. Or just click here: Windows Media or QuickTime versions. There's even a live Java-based demo.

Found via this ArsTechnica article, which has more links.

Twelve

12!

Titan might have methane lakes in the north

A while back, when Cassini brought the Huygens probe to Titan, it was trying to find oceans of methane, but it didn't. I just found some mush at best. Now, Cassini itself has found some extremely smooth surfaces which may be lakes of methane and ethane. If I can't get a sea, I'll take a lake. That's still pretty awesome. :) Somehow, lakes of methane are just so evocative to me, so alien. Can you imagine being an astronaut and landing on a moon with lakes of methane and a giant Saturn covering a big chunk of the sky? *sigh* If only space exploration weren't so damn expensive. :\

Federal Air Marshalls place people on watch list to meet quota

God, I hate quotas, but especially when they affect something as important as this: Federal air mashalls have to report one suspicious person a month or it affects their pay. It's not so much the effect on the innocent people reported that I'm worried about; it's that it reduces the signal-to-noise ratio and makes it harder to find the real suspicious people.

Scarab in Chinatown

My friends' band Scarab (now with MySpace page!) played Friday night at the Li-Po Lounge in Chinatown! The bar looked all Chinesey and stuff:

[bar]

But that's not quite where they were playing. Instead, they were playing here:

[stairs]

No, that's not a restroom. That's just the staircase to the basement (which is also where the restrooms are). :P

[basement]

Ah, and we finally get to the basement! It doesn't get more "underground" than this!

The "lighting" consisted of a couple of lamps set up on the floor:

[lightsource]

But check out the disco ball at the back of the stage:

[disco ball]

That disco ball is the only bit of decoration in the place. It totally classes up the joint! :P

This is ancient martial arts form called "flex-filming":

[flex-filming]

Russ looking passionate: (He's so hot! ;) )

[russ]

Mel looking snooty: ;)

[mel]

It was too dark to get good pictures of the other band members. :\

Banging away:

chinatown-08-headbanging.jpg

The band's awesome glass-tinting van:

chinatown-09-sweet-van.jpg

BONUS PICS!

From Scarab's second Brain Wash show a while back:

[atm]

Look! Russ is an ATM! :P

Brain Wash has apparently changed their paintings since the last Scarab show there:

[paintings]

Snakes on a Music Video

So there was this side project band called Cobra Starship, and when they heard about Snakes on a Plane, they knew they had to be on the soundtrack. (After all, they're probably named after Jefferson Starship, aka Jefferson Airplane.) The synchronicity!

So now they made the theme song for the movie, and here's the music video. Warning: It spoils the signature Sam Jackson line from the movie.

James Earl Vader

Okay, this is the funniest Star Wars thing I've seen in a while: The Vader Sessions. Star Wars remixed to show Vader having a nervous breakdown... by replacing Vader's lines James Earl Jones' lines from his other movies. :)

Human Brain as Co-Processor

Oh my God, this is the awesomest technology ever. Using the human brain as an image-recognition co-processor:

brain-coprocessor.jpg

Found via /., where this comment describes the most likely use case:

Re:How is this different from security guards? (Score:5, Interesting)
by BluePariah (987431) on 2006.07.13 7:22 (#15712398)

Not only do you not have to press the button but you can look at the data ten-times as fast. Imagine this scenario: You're a Homeland Security Goon at the airport and the boys in the NSA have provided you with the face of a terrorist that may be walking around the airport. You memorize the picture of the guy, put on your nifty EEG space helmet, and tap into the face recognition system camera database at the airport. You then sift through thousands of photos in mere minutes. Human recognition works FASTER than human consciousness and therefore can identify the images before you even 'know' it. The EEG can detect the signals of your brain recognizing images and when it gets a 'hit', it dumps that image them into a cache for closer review at a later time. Think about it... banks of people in a windowless office with EEG helmets on pouring over pictures from every corner of the globe looking for whomever. Fascinating and scary at the same time...

This is what cybernetics is all about! This isn't just slapping on a PDA to your wrist. Visual recognition technology is notoriously difficult to do with computers, and yet, it's one of the things that the human brain is best at. This technology is all about accomplishing a task better than any computer and faster than any human, playing to the strengths of both sides.

Said the computer to the human, "Help ME help YOU!"

Yes, this stuff can be kinda scary, too, but I still think it's awesome. :) It's another step toward super-human intelligence.

Three Signs

My new phone takes still-crappy but at least halfway viewable pictures, so I present to you three signs.

I noticed this sign at the gas station:

gas-station-cell-phone-sign.jpg

Does anyone actually follow the directions and turn off their cell phones when they're filling up? Unenforced rules are one of my pet peeves. I mean, if it's really important, then station attendants should at least yell at people who use their cell phones (assuming it's impractical to check if it's turned off in their pockets). Anyway, I mostly found it interesting because I had never heard of that rule before.

Now for a couple of amusing signs:

free-fall.jpg secret-entrance.jpg

The one on the left was in the parking garage elevator at Jack London Square. I think it's glued on, but still: Hilarious! Actually, what I also found fascinating about it is that, against all rationality, I was afraid to press it. :P

The one on the right is the label for the back entrance of the building where I work. We just moved offices, and this sign suddenly appeared one day. What's particularly amusing is the shadow it casts against the inside walls in the afternoon. It reminded me of the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy holds up the Staff of Ra at just the right time, and the sun beam hits a map to indicate the location of the Ark. Someone walked over to the wall and started patting it down, but, alas, he did not discover any hidden rooms, let alone the Ark of the Covenant. :P

Re-reading Foundation

I just started re-reading Isaac Asimov's Foundation, which was my favorite book growing up. It starts in the waning days of the 12,000-year-old Galactic Empire. (Asimov had just read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire when he wrote the story.) A mathematician named Hari Seldon scientifically calculates that the Empire will fall within 300 years. The gov't finds out about this and of course tries to suppress the information, dismissing Seldon as having a political agenda.

Thank God it's only fiction!

You're gonna play POLE POSITION!!!!

This is an awesome old commercial for the Atari 2600 game Pole Position.

Bush wishes Ebert well

Well, this is a short bit from Ebert's wife, so I'll just reproduce it here:

President Bush was in Chicago Thursday for his 60th birthday, having dinner with Mayor Daley. When asked by reporters what he wanted for his birthday he replied, "I've got a lot of birthday wishes. I hope the troops are safe. I hope Roger Ebert does well."

It's just interesting considering Ebert rags on this administration quite a bit in his reviews. :P That, and the fact that Ebert's apparently important enough to warrant a word of official well-wishing from the President.

Unexpected conclusion of a bet

Back in early 2002, Paul and I were discussing the Enron case. I was cynical and said that Kenneth Lay would probably manage to get off with a slap on the wrist, but Paul had more faith in our justice system and said he'd get serious jail time. So we made a bet:

If Lay gets more than 5 years in prison, Paul wins. If he gets less, I win. We also had a monetary component: $50K in fines could take the place of 1 year in prison. We bet a dinner: If Paul wins, I'd have to take him out to Indian Oven, and if I won, Paul would have to take me to Hot Pot City.

The odds were certainly stacked against me, but I figured, hey, even if I lose, it would mean he got a heavy sentence, so in a sense I'd win either way! :P

For the longest time, he wasn't even indicted, and we had to wait... He was finally indicted last year, and the trial started early this year... In the meantime, Hot Pot City in Berkeley closed down! (There's a whole other adventure the night we discovered that fact, but that story will have to wait for another time.) When he was finally convicted a little over a month ago, I joked that my bet was doomed because my restaurant closed. If I couldn't collect on my bet, of course I was going to lose! :P Anyway, things were definitely not looking good for me. He definitely looked like he was going to get serious jail time.

And then suddenly, today, Kenneth Lay died of a heart attack! Apparently, he found a way out of a heavy sentence after all. (Legallly, because he had not exhausted his appeals, his conviction is considered void.) And so, in a most morbid and unexpected way, I won my bet after all. :P

I guess Paul will now have to trek down to the Hot Pot City in the South Bay to treat me to dinner. :)

To Serve Man

So I was watching a Twilight Zone episode called "To Serve Man", and I looked it up on the Internet. Here's one page I found with a synopsis. (Spoiler warning!) What's hilarious is what comes after the synopsis on that page. Take a look! (That is if you don't mind having the episode spoiled for you, though it was really a pretty obvious plot twist.)

Well-wishing Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert is in serious but stable condition after an operation to repair complications from earlier surgery. Apparently, he has a slow-growing salivary gland tumor that has to get operated on every now and then. Here's hoping he makes a full recovery.

Reunion Reparations, or: A Bully I Didn't Even Know I Had

So I just went to my 10 year high school reunion tonight, and this guy from my class called Kevin (who also went to my middle school) comes up to me and starts shaking his head and apologizing. I'm like, "Huh?" He starts telling me that he owes me money. I'm like, "Huh?" He's like, "Oh, man... " and offers me some money, about eight bucks. Now, at this point, I'm really like, "Huh?!" He says, "I stole money from you." I'm like, "Huh?"

I'm confused.

He explains, "Back in middle school, I used to unzip your backpack, take out your wallet, and grab a couple bucks, not all of it. Then I'd return it and zip it back up so you wouldn't notice. And then I'd walk past you and be like, 'Hey, how's it going?' I've been feeling guilty about it, man!"

I said, "Oh. In that case, I'll take that money, then." And I grab his eight bucks. "I accept your apology, I guess!"

That incident alone was worth the price of admission!

About July 2006

This page contains all entries posted to the klog in July 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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