Sunday, December 10, 2006

Build a better playfort

Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools has an article on just the thing you need to make the perfect playfort. They are basically little reusable plastic rivets that you can use to assemble pieces of cardboard.

Friday, December 08, 2006

FBI can use cell phones as bugs

According to this article on Cnet, a recent Mafia case in the US has revealed that the FBI can use normal cell phones as eavesdropping devices. Unfortunately the article doesn't have much technical detail.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Contents of a Presidential motorcade

Slate has an article about what vehicles and personnel are included in a US Presidential motorcade.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

No need to be sleepy

The New Scientist has an article on new drugs that allow people to stay awake for days at a time without any later repercussions. At the moment you need to convince your doctor that you are narcoleptic in order to get a prescription.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

DVD: Inside Man

An excellent movie about a bank robbery that turns into a hostage situation. Denzel Washington plays the NYPD hostage negotiator tasked with resolving the confrontation. Things become complicated when various powerful figures, including a mysterious fixer played by Jodie Foster, become involved in the case.

The movie is worth watching just for the scheme and tactics of the robbers but the performances, the writing and the settings were excellent.

Plus the film is set on the street I used to work on.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lego pirate video

Here we have a very cool Lego pirate video. It was done with computer graphics rather than stop motion but is still worth watching.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A pop-up urinal

This blog post is about some new urinals in Victoria, BC that rise up out the ground in the evening and then hide away again in the day. There are some photos.

I was in Victoria this summer but didn't notice any vanishing urinals.

A Wing Chun video

In Wing Chun Kung Fu we do an exercise called chi sau. I have tried to explain this exercise to people several times without success and it can't easily be demonstrated by one person. In future I can point people to this video on youtube.

This still probably isn't the best video as both people have quite high skill levels but I think my readers will get the general idea. The person on the right in the video is Augustine Fong. He is my teacher's teacher.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Print your own graph paper will let you print your own calendars as well as various types of graph paper. They basically let you download a PDF file. They also have sudoko puzzles.

Monday, November 20, 2006

New Lego gadget

Here we have an ice cube tray that makes ice cubes shaped like Lego blocks. I don't know if you can build things with the ice cubes or not though.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Risk perception

Bruce Schneier links to a Los Angelos Times article on the perception of risk. Among other things the article compares the risks from terrorism, which are very low but very worrying, to the risks of global warming, which are high but not upsetting.

Schneier's post about the article includes the amusing quote:
Many people believe that their children are at risk of being given poisoned candy by strangers at Halloween, even though there has been no documented case of this ever happening.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Surviving an air crash

The BBC has an article about surviving air crashes. Interestingly, a common problem is that panicked passengers often have trouble releasing their seatbelts as they try to push on them, as in a car, rather than pulling on the handle.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A view of the earth

Continuing the space theme, we have another picture from Astronomy Picture of the Day. This one shows the earth as seen from Saturn.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The world at night

Astronomy picture of the day has a composite photo of the earth at night. It is interesting to compare areas that are brightly lit with those that are dark. Notice North Korea - the black area to the east of Japan above brightly lit South Korea.

Would it have worked?

The Register has an article about how hard it would have been to mix an explosive out of liquids carried on a plane. I liked the part about taking several hours to combine the chemicals drop by drop.

Of course I still can't take a bottle of water on a plane.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A talking postcard

I'm not really sure what to do with this site but it is a great timewaster. It basically lets you drag and drop words that are then spoken in a British gangster style voice.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Official seal

Courtesy of the Official Seal Generator, this blog now has a seal. Now I just have to figure out what to do with it.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Snopes has an article on an amazing picture from National Geographic that shows a group of camels in the desert. Note that what you first think are the camels are really their shadows.

Friday, September 15, 2006

What the terrorists want

Computer security guru Bruce Sneier has an article about the reaction, or over reaction, to recent terrorist attacks.

Friday, September 08, 2006

We are fitter than our grandparents

The New York Times has an article comparing the health of present day Americans and their grandparents. In addition to living longer, people today are larger, fitter and much less likely to be chronically ill.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Robot kayaks

Robot Gossip has an article (with a picture) about a new robotic kayak developed by MIT as a testbed for aquatic robots.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fan death

According to this article on Wikipedia, people in Korea believe that it is dangerous to sleep in a room with a running electric fan. There are regular reports in the Korean media of people dying from fan death.

Strangely these deaths only seem to occur in Korea and most people outside Korea consider the idea to be somewhat ridiculous. This makes me wonder if there are any similar things that we in the West believe that are laughed at elsewhere.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fake Identities

This site offers a "False Identity Generator". It is mainly intended for use on website registration pages. It returns a valued, though not necessarily existing address, as well as an appropriate zip code and phone number. It also provides a birthdate and mother's maiden name.

An interesting web comic

Gunnerkrigg Court is a web comic with excellent art and interesting stories. Don't let the vaguely Harry Potter-esque setting put you off.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Bionic limb breakthrough

The BBC has an article about a new technique that allows metal rods to be anchored to bone and then protrude through the skin. Until now they haven't been able to get the skin to grow properly around the rod.

Flip clips

I haven't used this service but it looks like it might be an interesting present to get for someone. Basically they convert a video into a flip book.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Water displays

This article describes, and has a picture of, a machine that uses water as a display. Waves are generated by a series of devices around the edge of the water and the interference patterns form the desired image.

Who's watching?

This article in the New Scientist reports on research that shows that people are not only more honest when being watched - they are more honest when there is just a picture of someone watching them.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Money making opportunity

This article in the Telegraph describes how thieves in the UK stole some satellite phones from the British Foreign Office and ran up a bill of over 600,000 pounds.

I don't know how much it costs to set up one of these pay per minute phone numbers but if you did have one that paid $10 per minute you could make a bit of money by calling the number from any unattended phone you encounter. This would be very handy if you visit a lot of different offices.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Where are the planets today?

This site lets you see the positions of the various planets in the solar system at any given time.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Orbital self-portrait

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a photo of an astronaut during a spacewalk reflected in the helmet of his colleague.

How statisticians won the war

This article in the Guardian describes how statisticians used the serial numbers of captured / destroyed German tanks managed to estimate the number of tanks that the Germans had.

I am assuming that today serial numbers are a bit more random.

The bookman

A very cool looking bookcase. Unfortunately it doesn't seem very practical, nor very efficient in terms of wall space. It looks like it would be fairly easy to make if you wanted to.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bastille day parade

This picture from the National Geographic Photo of the Day is of the Bastille day parade in Paris on July 14 1988. It fits in with this blog's title because I was there that day (though you can't see me in the picture).

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A twice a year sunset

Every year on May 28 and July 12 when the sun sets it lines up exactly with the streets on Manhattan. Astronomy picture of the day has a picture from a few years ago.

This is also referred to as a Manhattan Solstice.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Don't hide on the dance floor

According to the BBC, British police are taking advantage of the blacklights in dance clubs to find burglars who have been sprayed with marker dye. They have been using special dye that is coded differently for each potential crime scene so that the burglars can be tied to specific crimes.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Robot climbs Pikes Peak

An autonomous vehicle, which had previously competed in the DARPA grand challenge, has successfully driven to the top of Pikes Peak. This was the day after the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb which this year was won in a time of 10 minutes and 4.6 seconds. The robot made the 12.42 mile trip in 47 minutes and 10.3 seconds.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Tuk-tuks in the UK

According to the BBC, the British seaside town of Brighton has started using tuk-tuks on its streets. Tuk-tuks, named for the sound they make, are very common in parts of Asia but are not usually found in Europe.

via Jen

Canada in the EU

An interesting, not entirely serious, article in the Guardian about Canada joining the European Union.

via reddit

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

World subway maps in scale

An interesting comparision of the size of various subway systems around the world.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


A list of words that are their own antonyms. That is they mean the opposite of themselves. An example being custom which can mean usual or normal but can also mean special or unique.

via rebecca's pocket and Robot Wisdom

New Somme photos

The Times has the story of a set of recently discovered photographic plates with pictures of the Battle of the Somme. The plates were found in an attic that had been a German photographer's wartime workshop. Unfortunately they only show one of the photos.

An asteroid hits the moom

Nasa has an article with a video of an asteroid hitting the moon. It's not the greatest video but is still kind of cool.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Buffalo grocer gives away millions

The Buffalo News has the story about a grocer who anonymously gave away millions of dollars while living quietly in a small apartment above his store. He died recently so the charities have gone public with his name.

The numbers aren't as large as those in Warren Buffet's recent announcement but the idea is the same.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The end for Top of the Pops

The Guardian reports that after 42 years the British music show Top of the Pops is being cancelled. I never really watched the show myself but I did like the idea of it having been around forever.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Thailand offers to replace Afghan statues

The Thai government has offered to rebuild the ancient Bamiyan Buddha statues that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.


According to this article in the New Scientist, scientists have developed a robotic cockroach that can convince real roaches to follow it out of hiding into the light.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Google map pics: Diego Garcia

Some interesting pictures on Google Maps of the US base on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. If you zoom in you can see the B-52s parked on the runway.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Email management

Lifehacker has an article on how to manage and keep on top of your email using only three folders.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Living a carbon neutral life

An interesting blog post about the various options for offsetting the carbon you use in your life. There seems to be a lot of variation in the price of a ton.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The deepest hole

It turns out that the Soviets drilled a hole over 12 kilometers deep.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Liquid armour

According to this article, scientists have developed a substance that acts like a liquid under low-energy conditions, but when agitated or hit, stiffens and behaves like a solid. They plan to use this in body armour.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Life at the top

Have you ever wondered how practical those super stretched limos made from SUVs are? Well this picture may have an answer for you.
via RobotWisdom

Friday, June 16, 2006

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Travelling light

An article on SF Gate about travelling with just one carry on bag. There are several other articles in the series about travelling light.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Organised shoplifting

An article with some amazing numbers for the losses to stores from organised shoplifting gangs.

via robotwisdom

Monday, June 12, 2006

Baseball playing robot

According to this article in the New York Times, engineers at Arizona State University have built a robot that can intercept ground balls on a baseball field. It doesn't actually catch them at the moment it just manoevers into the path of the ball and stops it with a rubber bumper.

In case the NYT article goes away there is a summary, also with photo, on Robot Gossip.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Digger hits bridge

Some amazing photos of what happens why you drive a truck carrying a digger (aka an excavation hoe) under a highway bridge at full speed with the digger arm partly raised.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Beerhunter is a website that overlays a database with the locations of Ontario liquor and beer stores onto Google maps.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Why are there so many startups in the US?

An article by Paul Graham explaining what you would need to start your own Silicon Valley and why it would be difficult to do in various countries.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Online function grapher

This is one for the math geeks. This page lets you enter a function and then displays a graph for you. The whole thing is written in javascript and it will let you graph multiple functions at the same time.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Kung Fu Monks

This article from the Asia Times is about the modern day Shaolin monks. They used to support themselves by farming but now rely on tourism (ie martial arts displays).

Learning languages

From a site about learning languages, here is a list of various languages with ratings on their difficulty and other factors.

Friday, May 26, 2006


This article describes, and has a picture of, a gecko like robot that can climb walls.

Followup: This article on the New Scientist has another picture and a link to a video of the robot climbing.

This article talks about how a robot has performed surgery on its own. I was rather surprised by this one and am surprised that I haven't seen more on this.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Instant translators

Skype has a new service. You call a number and they will connect you to a translator in the language of your choice. Cost is USD 2.99 per minute billed to your Skype Out account.

Ebert's 102 film canon

Film critic Roger Ebert has a list of 102 films that you need to have seen in order to be able to have a proper discussion about films. Sadly I've only seen 27 of them.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Sleep medicine

This article describes a new drug that reduces the need for sleep. It seems to work, at least in the short term, and will let you go two days without sleep.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Make your own roadsign here.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Sultan's elephant

I'm not really sure what this is about but these pictures on Flickr are pretty wild. There seems to be a giant mechanical elephant and at least one huge puppet wandering around London.

Followup: Here is a page on the BBC about the event including this FAQ. The project's homepage is here.

Using playing cards for encryption

If you read Cryptonomicon you will remember a scene where two characters comunicate with messages that they encrypt using decks of playing cards. In this article cryptography expert Bruce Schneier explains how to do this with your own cards.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

How to get better gas mileage

This article has a list of tested tips on how you can go farther on a tank of gas. They seem to have a lot more to do with the driver than with the car.

Is it a bed or a desk?

This desk turns into a bed. Perfect for any remaining .com companies.

No time or numbers

This article in the Independent describes a South American tribe whose language has no numbers or past and future tenses. A professor tries to teach them to count but the concept seems alien to them.

via reddit

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A mouse for typing

Here is an interesting gadget, basically it is a mouse that has the keys from the right hand side of the keyboard on it. The theory is that you'll save all the time you lose moving your hand from the keyboard to the mouse and back again.

I can see this as being useful for programmers but I think they should have had an entire keyboard on the left rather than just half.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

How to get up when your alarm goes off

This article describes a method of training yourself to get up when your alarm goes off in the morning. Basically you practice. I haven't tried it out but it certainly sounds like it might work.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

A cheesy game

A cheesy little maze game from the same guy that did the spelling with Flickr page. The amazing thing is that it is only 20 lines of javascript.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Ways to lace your shoes

Followup to the shoe tying article.

This section of the same site shows 31 different ways to lace up your shoes. There is quite a bit of variety and some of the styles are quite intricate.

I still haven't tried the quick tying method but I am planning on getting around to it.

Followup: He also has some tips on how to lace and tie your shoes for various sports and activities, or, for example, if you can only use one hand.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Simply Google

Here is a page that links to all of the different features available from the folks at google. There are a lot of them.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Almost the largest robbery ever

This article describes how thieves almost stole $440 million from Sumitomo bank in London. They used keystroke loggers to capture userids and passwords then transfered the money to their own accounts.

The article doesn't really explain how the police got involved or how the thieves were going to launder the money so it isn't much use if you'd like to try this on your own.

This related article has a picture of one of the keyloggers and explains how Sumitomo plan to solve the problem with superglue.

ria reddit

Friday, April 21, 2006

Ways to tie your shoes

This website shows the 16 ways to tie your shoes. The site includes a much quicker way to tie the standard bow knot.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Illegal prime numbers

This wikipedia article is about numbers that are illegal. Essentially the number contains information that one is not allowed to possess. The article uses the example of computer programs that break the encryption of DVDs but other examples such as child pornography or secret documents come to mind.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Spell with Flickr

This site lets you enter a word or phrase and then gives you back an image that spells that phrase in pictures posted on Flickr. If you don't like one of the letters you can click on it and another picture will be found. It also gives you html that you can paste into your webpage to display the image.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Future enhancements

The text of a lecture by Ray Kurzweil on possible future enhancements to the human body.

I've read other articles on the idea of artificial red blood cells and it certainly sounds like they would be a handy thing to have in one's bloodstream.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

top 15 Skylines

A list, with pictures, of what one person feels are the top 15 city skylines in the world.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Best SF of 2005

SF Site presents its editors' annual list of the best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2005. Interestingly I've not heard of any of them.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Lunch delivery Indian style

This article in the Independent describes the dabbawallahs, the Indian delivery men who pick up thousands of home cooked lunches each day and deliver them to people at work.

Monday, March 20, 2006

China pictures

A page of really nice pictures from China.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Crop circle

A link to a crop circle on google maps. You may have to zoom in a little to see it.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Benford's law

This article discusses Benford's law which says that numbers starting with a 1 are more common than others.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

How to get rich

The text of a lecture by Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs and Steel, on why some societies are richer than others.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Trevor Greene

Here is a bio of the Canadian officer wounded in the axe attack in Afghanistan. He sounds like an interesting fellow. Hopefully he'll pull through.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Fake miniature pictures

This article describes how to take a nomal photo and make it look like a photo of a miniature model. This flickr page has some examples.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Another robot mule

A New Scientist article describes, and has pictures of, another robot mule for the US Army. This one has legs.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Canadian blog from Kandahar

This is a blog written by a Canadian officer with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar Afghanistan. It isn't up dated regularly but is interesting nonetheless.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


This blog post describes a new robot truck that can follow the truck in front. Aimed at the military this will initially allow drivers to rest without having to stop the convoy.

The Earth with clouds

This site shows a picture of the earth with current cloud cover.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

CNN says that KFC has a new comercial aimed at viewers with VCRs and PVRs. You have to watch it in slow motion to find out how to get a special deal.

Recommended Reading

Locus magazine lists its recommended science fiction and fantasy for 2005.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A picture of the spacestation Mir taken from above with New Zealand below.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The space elevator gets taller

A New Scientist article on experiment with a cable for the space elevator that got to mile in height. There is a picture of the cable hanging beneath a balloon.

Followup: Here's a press release about the test. via slashdot

Thursday, February 16, 2006

High tech ski suits at the Olympics

According to this article in the New Scientist, the suits worn by this year's Canadian and American downhill ski teams are reinforced with fibres that harden on impact to protect the skier in a fall.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Better think again

A list of some unfortunate domain name choices.
via reddit

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Robot mule

This blog entry describes, and has pictures of, a small robotic truck that it designed to carry extra gear for soldiers.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The power-law vs the Normal distribution

This article is a bit longer than the ones I usually post but it interesting nonetheless. The article is about how focusing on specific individuals can sometimes be more effective than trying to solve a problem in general. The examples used are homelessness and police brutality.

Friday, February 10, 2006

GPS Gumballs

Spiderman had his spidertracers and now, according to this article, Los Angelos police will soon be able to track fleeing vehicles by shooting a sticky ball at them.

Followup: Here's another article and a related slashdot article.

Coke consumption

This article is really about why coca-cola is made with corn syrop, and is interesting enough on its own, but I was struck by this fact:
  • Annual US Per capita consumption of Coke in servings: 411

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Fun with pictures

A website full of tools for playing with your photos. You can make calendars, movie posters or just add thought balloons to your pictures. The site is designed to work with Flickr but you can upload your own pictures or just use one from the web.

Friday, February 03, 2006

A better mess kit

An article by a scout master detailing what you should take camping instead of that old fashioned aluminium mess kit that you've had since you were seven. The frisbee plate idea is brilliant.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Early retirement

Philip Greenspun, of ArsDigita fame, has an article about early retirement. Since I'm in a similar situation (though I don't own my own helicopter) I found it of great interest.
A hippo at the beach

A cool picture, though I'm not quite sure what I like about it.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Colonel who saved the world

An article about a Russian Lt Colonel who, in 1983, prevented a nuclear war.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Math makes a comeback

This article talks about various companies that are selling mathematics as their products.


Here is a PDF book with notes on what you can see in the night sky for every day of 2006!

Space Suits

Everything you ever wanted to know about space suits.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Seeing through walls

A new handheld device will allow US troops to see if anything is moving in a room before they go in.

Monday, January 16, 2006


An interesting online comic about a boy and his dog (sort of). There isn't much story but the art is excellent. You need to start with the comic in the bottom right of the page.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The last men on the moon

A bit of nostalgia today, this picture is of one of the last two men to walk on the moon (the other can be seen reflected in his helmet).