A Cheap and Easy Sidebar

I hacked the MonthCalendar macro for moin moin to include some javascript which includes a sidebar built from a RSS feed. The javascript and back-end Rebol were written by p3k.org. The RSS feed is produced from (a subset of) my links at del.icio.us. All in all a quick, easy addition, requiring just a little Python twiddling.

Wow, this post contains almost no nouns a normal person would recognize.

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Hrm, the side bar stopped working because the http://p3k.org site hasn't been responding for at least 24 hours. I wonder if/when it will come back. If anyone notices it's returned let me know and I'll re-enable the side bar.

That sort of thing is exactly why I don't like relying on external web services be they flickr, gmail, del.icio.us, or whatever. I know in theory google and yahoo can keep those services running with 100% availability, and that they don't want the PR hit that elmininating them would cause, but still if you're not paying someone to store you're data you shouldn't expect it to still be there tomorrow.


The p3k site is back up, but I switched over to using del.icio.us directly for the rendering. I recall they used to request that you not put anything on your webpages that hits their site for every page view, but they seem to be encouraging it now. Their link rolling seems to work that way, anyway (and works quite well, at that).

Isle Royal GPS Data

Earlier this month some friends and I hiked across Isle Royale in lake Superior. Joe kept his GPS running and produced good track points in an odd export format from his Mac software called "Topo". I created a quick conversion script to produce this GPS format data which can be used with the GPS visualizer website to produce images like this:

isle-royale.png

Engagement Ring

Again, it probably doesn't exactly meet the "things I've created" criteria for this website, but I just couldn't help but post this one. A few months ago Kate Bauer and I put together this ring:

IMG_0831.JPG

IMG_0836.JPG

Today when it arrived she agreed to marry me, and I couldn't be happier.

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Hey Ry4an, you may or may not remember me, but my name is Brenden Johnson and was in IT at the U with you. We had Serge Rudaz (and FOSSIL) among other classes together. I happened across your blog a little bit ago on GeoURL.org and had to congratulate you on your engagement.


Hey, Brenden, I certainly remember you and the rest of the physics folks. I've been back on campus a few times lately and even though it's only been ten years since freshman year it's amazing how simultaneously distant and vivid memories of those times are. Nice hearing from you, and thanks. -- Ry4an

Vodka Fruit Infusion

A few months back Kate Bauer and I hosted a BBQ at her place. I wanted to try putting together a fruit and vodka infusion of the sort I'd previously seen at bars.

Kate bought a bunch of fresh fruit and I picked up the vodka (Svedka, the best vodka for the dollar, and damn near the best at any price). We used the same glass container from Pier One I purchased to house pickled eggs for my Moe the bartender Halloween costume a few years back. The infusion came out great, but we learned a few things along the way:

  • Pineapple is a great filler
  • Strawberries lose their color and look pale and sad
  • Kiwi sticks to the glass
  • Decant some into a pitcher for easy pouring

Initially we set up a complicated siphon and valve system which worked well enough, but scared people away. Once we decanted the vodka off the drink really went quickly.

As one would expect the final product tasted like candy, but had the potency of hard liquor -- yikes.

vodka-infusion.jpg

Timed Home Phone Ringers

I really need to sleep in once a week, and I actually get to once a month. When I do sleep in I want the ringers off on all the phones in the house, but that's three phones to go find and then to remember to un-silence in the "morning". This past weekend I figured out that by using the call-forwarding feature on my home phone line to route all calls to my cell phone I can keep all the extensions from ringing. What's more by using the timed profiles feature on my cell phone I can have it muted until a pre-set time (say, 2pm) at which time the ringer re-enables itself. Finally I've got a good way to sleep in uninterrupted without forgetting to turn the ringers back on for the next three days.

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Alternatively, you could ditch your land line. That worked for me. --Greg


Yeah, I've considered that but I like having a phone number I can give out to people whom I don't want reaching me on my cell phone -- especially since I work from home. Indeed, that's why I got the call-forwarding initially.

Shades of Coke Blind Taste Test

On Sunday Kate Bauer and I ran and participated in a double blind random taste test of the various shades of Coca-Cola. Into numbered glasses Kate poured the samples from bottles whose labels I'd replaced with lettered labels. The samples we included were:

  • Coke
  • Diet Coke
  • Diet Coke with Splenda
  • Coke C2 (already hard to find!)
  • Coke Zero

Kate was 3 for 5 with only Coke and C2 transposed. I got only one of them right (everyone knows the gasoline flavor of Diet Coke). From this we can conclude that either Kate's got a much better palate than I do or that she drinks a lot of Coke when I'm not looking.

coke-taste-test.jpg

MTN Televised Scrabble Archive

I've been hooked on MTN's televised scrabble since Kate Bauer and I stumbled across it a few weeks back. The only on-line mention I can find of it is an old review in a student paper.

I'm thinking of getting a group of folks together to play as a team semi-regularly, but while that's getting setup I decided to start archiving the games, because that's the sort of thing I do, I guess.

I started out by looking to see if there already was a standard scrabble game notation. There are a few, but none of them are particularly well thought out. The most commons seems to be the log2 format. It's human readable, but pretty fiddly syntax wise.

Last weeks game as a log2 file starts like this:

Hamil                                   Mpls
  8h  CARP             +16   16  MIXIWOD   i7  WAX             +25   25
   h8 COPE             +17   33  IIMODTL 11e   MODEL           +16   41
  9g  FOX              +17   50  IITEYTG 10d   GEY             +28   69

In addition to creating a log2 file for the game, I created a first cut at an on-line HTML visualization as found here: https://ry4an.org/scrabble/games/2005-06-21/ The image on that page:

board

was created with the help of the board display tool by Graham Toal.

Once I get that page into a format I like, I'll probably create a CGI that converts log2 files to HTML visualizations on the fly. I, however, definitely don't have time for something like that now.

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I think this idea is really cool. -Hamil

Netflix Self Annotations

I'm a happy Netflix user. Before I used Netflix I used to maintain a list of movies I wanted to see. Now I just use my Netflix queue for the same purpose. The only problem with my new system is by the time a recommended movie goes from the back of the queue to the front, about a year, I've long since forgotten who recommended it.

If Netflix offered a way for me to put a little note next to my own queue entries, I'd better be able to track who recommended movies or just why they made it on to my queue in the first place. Netflix does offer a feature they call their two cents system wherein you can write reviews of movies, which other members on your friends list can view. That's not really what I'm looking for though. I just want some space I can make notes to myself -- not for others.

I've suggested this to Netflix, but I've never received a reponse to a suggestion sent to them, so I'm not holding my breath.

P.S. If you're the person who recommended The Apostle to me, I now hate you.

Poker Timer DVD

There's a ton of poker time software out there and even some nifty looking dedicated hardware. At the games I attend we'll usually use a computer for the timing, but often there isn't one in the room and no one wants to bring over a laptop. However, there is almost always a TV with DVD player in whatever room gets temporarily re-purposed as the game room.

That got me thinking that a DVD that could serve as a poker timer would work in all the rooms in which we play poker and would offer these other benefits:

  • large display
  • easily paused using a remote
  • doesn't require a computer
  • simple operation
  • audible alert when the blinds increase
  • cheap to produce

Tournaments often last four hours or more, but a DVD can hold that much video using a variable bit rate encoding so long as the image doesn't change a great deal, and a simple count-down timer image wouldn't change very much at all.

The elapsed time per round, round number, and time remaining in the round would all be numbers on the video display, but the actual blind values, which tend to differ from tournament to tournament, would be best contained in the closed captioning track.

DVDs can contain zero or more closed captioning tracks each of which contain screen location information and text which is overlaid on the video. Putting different blind levels on different tracks allows the tournament director to easily adjust the blinds to whatever he or she prefers.

Creating the DVD would be a simple matter of transcoding computer output into a variable bit rate DVD-ready video stream. The computer output time display could be easily created using simple computer graphics programming, flash, or even javascript and HTML.

I suspect if someone took the time to put together such a DVD it could be sold in poker stores, game stores, and online for way more than the less-than-a-dollar production cost. Go do it, and I'll buy one.

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It looks like someone did start making something like this (before I posted). Their implementation looks very nice: http://www.homeseriespoker.com -- Ry4an

May Wrap-Up

The policy here at the UnBlog is that I only write up things I've created -- not just things I've seen. Last month, however, most all my creative output went into work, with very little time and energy left for side projects. I've got a few nearing completion, but nothing worth writing about yet.

I did manage to get a few small projects done -- some of which involved a little ingenuity:

  • installed a ceiling fan in a 1920s era home -- with creative ceiling patching and wiring required
  • disassembled and diagnosed my broken washing machine
  • repaired a broken sandal using the sheet bend and two-half-hitches
  • painted a room

Hey, it's not much, but neither is my quantity of available free time.

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what a lucky person to have all those projects done for them. who ever would that be??? since of course you don't wear sandals or have a 1921 house. -- Kate Bauer

It's a secret. -- Ry4an