The Big Think

March 31, 2008

Symphony in Red

Filed under: Music — jasony @ 1:37 pm

Erin’s aunt and uncle, who play in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, are playing in a concert series in Europe soon. Check out this amazing two minute commercial about the concert series.

Here is an article describing how the commercial was made.

March 29, 2008


Filed under: Movies,Uncategorized — jasony @ 8:21 am

Stop motion cardboard Tron lightcycle chase. Awesome.

March 28, 2008

Quick, Grab the Torches

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 9:31 am

From the people-who-don’t-get-it department comes this story about a lawsuit in US court trying to stop the LHC from going online because it might, y’know, destroy the universe. Among other reasons this is a stupid idea is this: the LHC and CERN aren’t even in the US!

Matt has a good summary of the Large Hadron Collider. From his site:

To give some idea of what kind of energy we’re talking about, the everyday energy scales we live at are a few hundred (in energy units of electron volts…don’t worry about that, the relative scale is what matters). The surface of the sun is a few thousand.

LHC is going to get up to about 14,000,000,000,000. That’s impressive, but the highest possible, the Planck scale, is 20,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 … so we have a ways to go.

But here’s the fun part…like I said, physics changes as energy increases. But, it doesn’t change continuously. Things may look the same for a big range of energy, and as you increase, you don’t see anything new. At other points, however, there may be a HUGE change that happens really suddenly as you increase energy.

And the experimental work we’ve been able to do for a long time now has been in an energy range where theories don’t expect much to change. That is, until now.
The energy range the LHC will get to once they fire it up in a couple of months is just on the other side of where we expect the next big jump to be.

Matt is a good writer and teacher (in addition to being a crack Ratchet and Clank player). Check out his extended explication of the LHC.

March 27, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 7:50 pm

Do you know the name Frankie Housley? You should.

Entertainment Center

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 5:51 pm

Progress on the ent. cent the last couple of days. I sorted through my pile of QSRO and picked a bunch of boards to match for the sides and shelves. Lumber comes in varying thicknesses that are organized in 1/4 inch increments. You can get 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and (wait for it)… 4/4. You can also get 5/4 and 6/4. The next step is 8/4 for the really thick stuff. There’s probably a good reason they do this, but I don’t know it.

I bought all my lumber in the 4/4 variety because it comes rough and you have to plane it down smooth. Planing obviously takes off material, which is why the standard furniture thickness is 3/4. The 3/4 stuff is is thick enough to be strong while still giving you enough wood left over after you’ve planed off the rough spots and smoothed things out. You can buy pre-planed wood from a big box store like Lowes, but the cost for that service almost doubles the price of the wood! So if you have the tools and the time you’re much better off doing it yourself.

Also, really good handmade furniture often doesn’t comply with this 3/4 standard. So I decided to make my carcasses and shelves out of wood that’s a bit over 3/4. This more closely matches the whole Arts and Crafts style I’m aiming for. The other reason is that I can’t stand spending several hundred dollars on lumber, lugging it home, and then immediately turning 1/4 of my investment into sawdust. Even at the current thickness -about 7/8ths of an inch- I’ve got a trashcan full of some expensive oak sawdust. Such is woodworking.

I pulled the boards out and carefully rough cut the pieces I needed, then sent them all through the planer and jointer. Just for the boards that make up 4 of the “walls” (the two side bookshelf walls) took several hours of work. Planing is pretty noisy and boring, so I put the iPod on and work my way through podcasts while I’m doing it. A planer is a fairly safe piece of machinery so I feel comfortable doing this. Whenever I’m on the table saw, though, It’s Total Concentration Time.

Anyway, after grain matching the wood for the best look I jointed the edges and glued them up into the 52×16 panels (four of them) an left them to dry. Today I did the same thing except with the six interior shelves. I’m starting to realize just how heavy this beast is going to be- solid wood is dense!

I also went to pick up a piece of 1/4 inch oak plywood for the back of the bookshelves. The lumberyard had a piece of beautiful 4×8 ply that had a severe ding in it on two edges. Fortunately, I won’t need that much wood. The guy at the yard sold it to me for ten bucks. Nice. I’ll have to carefully work around the ding a bit, but I’m glad to save the coin.

Next step is to go back and get a really nice piece of 3/4 oak ply, then measure and cut a couple pieces. I’m trying to limit my plywood usage because I want to be able to say the thing is made from solid wood, but I figure putting a few pieces of good 3/4 oak plywood in a few invisible spots won’t ruin the authenticity too much. Besides, there’s a big difference in the cost, and I’d hate to waste money on buying beautiful quarter sawn red oak only to hide it where it’ll never be seen. To give you an idea, I could have easily gotten all 6 of my shelves out of a $45 piece of 3/4 ply with enough plywood left over for 12 more shelves. I calculated the value of the solid QSRO that’s going into the shelves today: $85. So I’m all about saving money where you won’t see it. That way, what you do see can be even more beautiful.

Once the plywood is cut I’ll have all of the raw pieces for the bookshelf sides glued up into panels. Then it’s sand, sand, sand. I’ll probably spend two days doing nothing but annoying the neighbors sanding in the driveway. My hand gets numb holding the sander so I’m thinking I might use some kind of padded glove. Anyway, after that comes the stressful glue-up, then then interminable detail stage. I decided to incorporate ebony somehow, but I think I might do it in the doors. Depends on a couple things that I won’t know until things are a bit farther along.

Once the side shelves are done I’ll start working on the big center piece. It’s a scaled up version of what I’m doing now with a few major modifications. Still trying to work a few things out. Then I’ll have to get the final pieces of lumber for the three top caps (more planing/jointing/glue-up/sanding). Then the finishing, which will probably take a couple of weeks.

Long way to go.

The Most Entertaining Trial Ever

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 5:36 pm

Probably fictional, but a funny read nonetheless.


Filed under: Space — jasony @ 3:15 pm

Now this warms my heart:

What is it? It’s an assembly line. For spaceships.

more pictures here.

A Musical… Road?

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 8:49 am

What will those zany Japanese think of next? Pretty cool, actually. link

March 26, 2008

Gadgetry’s Golden Rule

Filed under: Music — jasony @ 4:25 pm

Don’t buy expensive cables. I agree- except.

When it comes to purchasing studio cables (XLR, 1/4″, RCA, etc), my experience has been that you’re much, much better off spending a few extra bucks for the nicer cable. Not because the quality of the copper wire is any better, nor because there’s any special voodoo done to the conductor, but because the quality of the connector is so much better. Cables in a studio environment, if they’re treated well, usually go bad within the first two or three inches of the end. This is because you’re constantly plugging and unplugging them. Paying a bit more for good connectors is worth it. Plus, the shielding is often better, which rejects RF interference.

In my old studio setup ten years ago, I would occasionally hear the high-frequency airline chatter from planes as they came in to land at our local airport. I’d bought cheaper low-sheilding cables and could tell the difference. But I have some cables in my current setup that are well over a decade old and are still going strong.

One other thing: once you put together a major setup (I have 100+ cables in my current studio), getting behind the gear, testing cables, and untangling the one that’s gone bad can be half a day wasted. Better to pony up a few more bucks up front.

Figure anywhere from $10-15 each for a decent cable (and up, depending on length). Yes, it’s an investment, but like buying anything of quality, it’s one you’ll only make once.

But the author is 100% right about Monster Cables. NEVER buy Monster. They’re a demonstrated rip-off.

Cloudy Vista

Filed under: Apple — jasony @ 4:16 pm

At Bowdoin College, about half of the computers are Macs, and half are PCs. When Apple released the latest version of OS X in October, professors with Macs immediately swamped the IT department to ask about the long-awaited Leopard. But after Windows Vista, the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system, came out over a year ago, there were no such requests.

article here.

Roll One for My Homie

Filed under: Games — jasony @ 11:17 am

Picture 2.png

MIT Students roll a giant 20 sided dice in memory of Gary Gygax, the creator of D&D, who died recently. You can see all the pictures here.

March 25, 2008

Now Get Some Jugs and Fill Them With Water

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 7:45 pm

A black magic magician fails miserably to kill his intended victim. In front of 100 million people.


New Shop Project Begins!

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 12:51 pm

Just got back from the lumberyard. I filled my truck with beautiful quarter-sawn red oak (QSRO) to use on the new project. I can’t wait to get started! I still need to get a little bit of plywood (a couple sheets) as well as some more QSRO, but I think I’ve got 75% of the lumber I need. What is it? Well…

Take a look:

Picture 1.png

It’s an entertainment center! I designed it in Sketchup to compliment Erin’s music cabinet in the piano room. Oh, how I LOVE Sketchup. I also modeled the rest of our living room to work on overall dimensions and proportions. It was neat to be able to stretch the piece out until it looked “right” in the space, then take those measurements to the lumberyard and buy wood. You can see the subwoofer I built a year ago as well as a coffee table and couch. The rest of the room isn’t visible in this picture.

Here’s another pic of the ent. cent. In this picture I’ve exploded the piece to get accurate measurements.

Picture 2.png

(Sorry, the proportions of the pic aren’t working out right now. This looks too tall and stretched. I’ll fix it later.)

The cabinet will be solid wood (with a very small amount of plywood in the hidden areas) with ebony inlays. Arts and Crafts style. I think I’ll add doors to the side cabinets but that’ll be a detail that I decide on later once it comes together. Got a really nice design idea for the doors.

Fedex just now delivered the mount for the flat panel HDTV. I designed the ent. cent. to hold our new TV with no cables showing. I’m also going to cut a hole for the center channel to slide into so the front of the speaker is flush with the TV. The whole thing will be finished in the same finish as the bookshelf, which is astonishingly pretty. Hand-rubbed shellac top coat. I’m designing this and building it in my normal fashion: overbuild and make it out of nice materials. I figure I’m probably only going to build one really great entertainment center in my life, and seeing how our current one is a piece of particleboard garbage I bought for $15 from my college roommate 15 years ago, this’ll be a step up. I’m only going to build one and I wanted to make it out of the best wood I could find, so the raw stock cost is fairly expensive. Here’s the kicker, though: go out and price a low-quality particle-board entertainment center. You’re easily in the $750-$1000 range, and the thing is going to fall apart in a few years. It’s not something you’d want to pass on, and it definitely isn’t made of good materials. Now go price a solid wood one. Handmade. You’d easily pass the $6000 mark.

The best thing about having my own shop is that I’ll be able to build a solid wood handmade piece that’s custom designed around our 46″ TV and fits our style exactly… for a bit less than the price of the low-end piece of garbage. That’s why I don’t mind getting the good wood (QSRO is $6.37/bf as opposed to $2.50/bf for “normal” oak…but oh, the difference).

I’ll keep you updated on progress with pictures. I figure (hopefully realistically this time) that it’ll take me about 2 months to build if I work on it a bit every day.

(And yes, we got a TV. No comments from the peanut gallery, please. We still like watching movies. Got it for half of what Best Buy was asking, too! 46″ 1080p LCD. We’ve had it a few months and love the thing… especially plugged into the Mac Mini with the big TB hard drive full of movies.)

March 24, 2008

Made Me Go Hmmm….

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 11:28 pm

Just how did Dumbledore know what ear wax tasted like, anyway?


Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 6:08 pm

Top 10 reasons to watch the new season of Battlestar Galactica on Letterman…. announced by the cast of BSG. Is it just me, or did they really phone this one in? Can you say “contractual obligation”? As in all top 10 lists, some were funny and some were dumb. I particularly liked Roslin’s.

Fine Print

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 12:32 pm

Upgrading my cellphone to a nice spiffy new Razr. The problem with the old one was that it wouldn’t “pick up” when I opened the clamshell. The new one was only $50 after rebate and I got a bluetooth earpiece, which will definitely be nice when I’m driving.

Anyway, I’m filling out the rebate form today and noticed this in the fine print:

“Offer is valid only with the purchase of a qualifying handset upgrade at wireless retail stores that are authorized to sell T-Moblie products and services (locations not owned and operated by T-Moblie)”

followed immediately by this paragraph (emphasis mine):

“Offer is NOT valid for purchases made at T-Mobile owned and operated retail locations”

Huh? I called T-Mobile and told him I bought it from a T-Mobile-only storefront and he told me I was okay, but am I the only one thrown by this fine print? It seems to be saying that if I bought it from a T-Mobile store directly the rebate wouldn’t apply, even though the store was advertising it with the rebate. It’s probably just a case of the rebate form being overlawyered, but it’s annoying anyway. I’m the kind of person that fills out all my rebate forms and tracks their progress, i.e. the kind of person the industry hates because I actually get my money back. This silliness seems to be giving them a way out, not that they’ll take it.

UPDATE: Wow, it turns out I’m not crazy after all. Other people have been having a problem with the same exact thing. It seems T-mobile is denying perfectly legitimate rebate forms because of this very same fine print. Who’da thunk it? T-mobile has always gotten good marks for customer service, so this surprises me. I’ll definitely keep an eye on this. This guy (same link) says he filed a complaint with the BBB and heard back from T-mobile only to be rejected again in a letter a few weeks later. He called the office of the president and got it taken care of, but please… do you really need to go to those lengths to get a legitimate rebate back? Shame on T-moblie if this is a common practice.

For the record, I’ve spoken to two different people at T-mobile (Michael at my local store), and they assure me I’ll get the rebate. This is why I try not to mess with rebates much. Too much trouble.

Ultimate Flight Sim

Filed under: Games,Hobbies — jasony @ 11:20 am

Check out this flight simulator.


In addition to looking awesomely cool, it can help you get your pilot’s license. The FAA has reportedly said that you can use it for up to 2.5 hours of actual stick time toward your license. Unfortunately, the $100/hour or so that you save is more than offset by the $17,250 pricetag of the simulator. When I was getting my license I bought a copy of MS Flight Sim and ran it on my roommate Patrick’s PC. I used the very basic keyboard and joystick controls to run pattern and landing procedures, and even simulated a couple of flights. I couldn’t log the time, but just practicing the procedures at home allowed me to easily save the $40 in flight time that the program cost me. A very good investment.

I think that I could easily build something like this, using just this picture. I’d have to use a preexisting computer (which I have), and buy some monitors and other gear, but I think it’d be easily possible to make this for under a couple grand.


Monitors: 3 Dell 22″ LCD’s $750
Computer: exising
Software: $50
Chair: $200?
Tubing and infrastructure: $200?
Instrumentation: Ooo.. this looks like it’d be the expensive part. Probably cost a couple grand to outfit a full suite of instrumentation. Luckily, most of it seems to be built on a standard interface protocol so it could plug into MS Flight Sim or X-Plane.

So for a “mere” $3500-$4000 outlay you could have a killer homemade flight sim- and ‘save’ $12,000!

Okay, it’s not cheap, but what a fun project to undertake for someone. I’d bet you could easily sell it for more that the cost of parts (though not the time invested).

Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

*UPDATE* For a righteous Moon plug-in for your flight sim, check out Terrabuilder’s site. Their software allows you to change the Earth terrain maps to a lunar map, then fly around in their landers. Awesome screenshots.

Sore Shoulders

Filed under: Audio,Music — jasony @ 11:04 am

Keep Rolling from the Top“. The Boom Operator Blues.

Arm Yourselves

Filed under: Games — jasony @ 11:01 am

Get scale weapons for you Lego figures!

The Evolution of Video Game Consoles

Filed under: Games — jasony @ 10:55 am

I wonder how many of theseD Patrick has tucked away in his closet?

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