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Thursday, December 28, 2000

Yeah, yeah, every computer company has evangelists, but only SGI has a Pope. His name's Matt Marchese and he lives in Wisconsin. Some interesting links on his site, including some photos he took of Blondie and The Ramones at L.A.'s Whisky-A-Go-Go back in 1977. Cool!

I also enjoyed visiting the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets. I had no idea how seriously some folks take their commodes. And you know how they say you learn something new every day? Well today I believe I learned the origin of the phrase "anal retentive" - it's the ARYAN CODE OF TOILETS from 1500 B.C.
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/28/2000 11:47:12 PM

Saturday, December 23, 2000

Milo Vermeulen has java'd up a cool random snowflake generator for our wintertime enjoyment. They constantly mutate, but there's not a single mutant among them!
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/23/2000 7:34:47 PM

Friday, December 22, 2000

M' bud, Dennis tipped me to an amazing award-winning photograph snapped by Navy ensign, John Gay of an F-18 Hornet just at the moment of passing through the sound barrier at Mach 1, creating a vapor cloud for a split second. Gay was on the deck of the USS Constellation during excercises in the Pacific between Hawaii and Japan. Read an account of the photograph and how it was captured.

You can also download a spectacular 1.8Mb MPEG of a jet creating a sonic boom cloud in a carrier flyby. Whoa!
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/22/2000 10:49:19 PM

Thursday, December 21, 2000

Forget Christmas. This year Toshimi and I are going be to celebrating "Kurisumasu,"
which is sorta more like a Sanrio version of Valentine's Day.

The holiday, as observed by the Japanese is seriously askew. Colonel Sanders evidently tried to foist fried chicken on them as the "traditional" Christmas meal. Commercials have nuns singing advertising jingles to the tune of familiar carols, and one greeting card featured a ghoulish Santa in a graveyard accompanied by the Virgin Mary on broomstick. Bottles of sake are adorned with elves, and a there's a holiday revue starring "stripping nuns and three lecherous Wise Men."

For years there's been an urban legend about a Japanese department store that purportedly, in a fit of misguided pan-culturalism, fashioned a window display featuring a crucified Santa Claus. Sadly this has been debunked. But here's an amusing anecdote from the Savvy Traveler on one Japanese woman's conflation of Jesus and Santa Claus.

And quite possibly one of the best Kurisumasu albums ever recorded - Brave Combo's It's Christmas, Man!, which includes a samba version of O Tannenbaum, and other old holiday chestnuts done up as cha chas, rumbas, polkas, rancheras, and waltzes. Hey, they even throw in a hora for Hanukkah. Peace on Earth, y'all!
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/21/2000 11:33:56 PM

Wednesday, December 20, 2000

I knew that fellow WELL pern, Adam Gertsacov was a clown. But I didn't know he had a Flea Circus! His stars, Midge and Madge, who live a relative life of luxury in their own Victorian suitcase, can pull 131,000 times their own weight. The two fleas compete in a miniature chariot race, walk a tiny tightrope, and are even shot of of a miniature cannon in the Acme Miniature Circus' grande finale. He pays his stars every 15 to 20 days with a drop of blood he pricks from his finger.

- posted by JIMWICh on 12/20/2000 8:14:03 PM

Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Now you can commission your very own action figure! via Cory.
I want mine to have "kung fu grip!"
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/19/2000 6:34:47 PM

Monday, December 18, 2000

Hey, I'm as global as the next guy, but some things simply make me proud to be an American. And one of those things
is Lind, Washington's combine demolition derby. Leslie Strom writes of attending this rural spectacle in the "Dumb-Ass Trips" feature on getlostmagazine.

After the hellish contest, the surviving reapers parade triumphantly through downtown.
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/18/2000 7:16:07 PM

Mutant Snowflake sighting! This time an immaculate eight-pointer was spotted by none other than Mister Pants. Let's not press him on his reasons for being at this site. It apparently had something to do with Donny Osmond...
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/18/2000 7:12:25 PM

Friday, December 15, 2000

New potentially lethal sport: Railbiking. via Danger Dan.

- posted by JIMWICh on 12/15/2000 3:02:31 PM

Mutant Snowflake sighting! Rich Barnes just found a mutant motherload! The Free Williamsburg site has nearly too many eight-points to count. I guess they're even free of the laws of nature!
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/15/2000 11:23:40 AM

Mutant Snowflake sighting! Dapete points out the three eight-points on his My Yahoo! site. Being a snowboarder, he knows both his mutants and his snowflakes.
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/15/2000 10:41:26 AM

Thursday, December 14, 2000

Gorgeous and revealing composite photo of nighttime Earth from Space (544k - 2400h x 1200v)

Just one of the many incredibly beautiful and interesting images at NASA's Photo Of The Day archive.

- posted by JIMWICh on 12/14/2000 12:14:28 PM

Wednesday, December 13, 2000

Meana Kasi's thought
ful essay on creativity and why there's so darned little of it among adults.
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/13/2000 7:41:53 PM

My linku for the day...

     Look's like the SCOTUS
     Has got us by our scrotus
Shrub's the PEOTUS

- posted by JIMWICh on 12/13/2000 4:02:29 PM

Tuesday, December 12, 2000

Mutant Snowflake sighting!
lant Austinite, Tim Thompson spotted not one, but two clusters of mutants - and!
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/12/2000 10:28:29 PM

Monday, December 11, 2000

Mutant Snowflake sighting!
Yahoo Shopping. Whata buncha yahoos.

- posted by JIMWICh on 12/11/2000 9:52:12 PM

Uh... Disquieting.
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/11/2000 8:41:08 PM

Igloo on steroids: The Jukkasjärvi Icehotel in Sweden's northern Lapland is a cool hotel (literally and figuratively) where everything, even the furniture, is constructed entirely from ice and snow. Each year they build it, only to watch it melt in the coming spring. 66 million pounds of snow and 22 million pounds of clear ice are used in its construction. Martyn Bailey has a great photo archive of the Icehotel online.

Just down the hall, inside your room, you'll bed down on comfy caribou hides in thermal sleeping bags. The temperature inside typically ranges between 16°F (-9°C) and 25°F (-4°C). Of course if you wuss out, you can always repair to one of the nearby bungalows.

Since electricity presents a few problems in a facility made of water, all the buildings are connected via Symbol Technologies Spectrum24 wireless network. Many activities including check-in and ordering drinks at the Absolut Icebar are done via PDA. But the transmitters had to be arranged in a line-of-sight configuration because 2.4GHz won't penetrate ice!
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/11/2000 7:39:25 PM

Saturday, December 9, 2000

And here's some rather unlikely rock art...

I found this among hundreds of great animation cells and sketches and original pieces for sale online at The Wonderful World of Animation galleries. There are galleries for Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Hanna-Barbara cartoons, Pink Panther, Yellow Submarine, and more. A fun place to browse.
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/9/2000 8:43:06 PM

Friday, December 8, 2000

One day I was walking down the sidewalk and spotted a smooth, rounded stone. I picked it up and had it sitting next to my computer for a few days when I got the urge to take my Dremel tool to it. I was intrigued with the results, so I thought I would delve a bit deeper into stonework, perhaps making some more permanent icons. I began with a a trip to a local lapidary shop, Gems Galore, to purchase a stone tumbler (something I've wanted since I was a kid) and also picked up some smooth, but unpolished beach stones they had. I've made six stoneglyphs so far, some polished and some not.

But the strangest thing of all happened late one night just after I'd made a stoneglyph of the familiar petroglyph character, Kokopelli. It was about 10:45pm when I left my office, with the freshly carved stoneglyph still in my hand. It's really dark just outside my glass office door, and so as I turned to lock it, I glanced down to look at the Kokopelli stoneglyph, visible in the light coming through the door. Just then I was aware of someone passing on the sidewalk behind me. I turned around and saw something that truly amazes me to this day. Here was this, umm, homeless-looking character with wild hair, sorta bent over and holding a trumpet to his lips! He wasn't actually blowing the horn, but rather acting as though he were playing it, bobbing up and down and spinning around from side to side as he slowly made his way up the sidewalk ahead of me. Never taking the horn away from his mouth, he turned around and stared directly at me! Needless to say, I was completely freaked! It was like seeing Kokopelli himself! I remember wondering if perhaps I should give this stoneglyph to him. But I was so stunned that all I could do was follow him up the street, where he turned and disappeared into the the Blue Chalk Cafe (oddly enough, a Southwestern restaurant and billiard hall). Absolutely the weirdest synchronicity I've ever experienced, and I've had some strange ones over the years...

I've been interested in petroglyphs for many years, for their graphic stylization, use of symbology, and relative permanence. There's a wide variety of petroglyphs found around the world, but some of the most famous are found in the American Southwest. I have two good books on petroglyphs, A Field Guide to Rock Art Symbols of the Greater Southwest, by Alex Patterson, and Stone Magic of the Ancients, by James R. Cunkle and Markus A Jacquemain (now out of print). Both are good reference guides for stone imagery along with descriptions of associated meanings, both known and conjectured.
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/8/2000 2:10:25 PM

Wednesday, December 6, 2000

Someone should auction off a clue to eBay! Their site's been taken over by Mutant Snowflakes!
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/6/2000 6:07:58 PM

Monday, December 4, 2000

I've always been drawn to the Suprematist paintings of Kasmir Malevich (1878-1935) just a bit more than to the more formal structurings of DeStijl designer and painter, Piet Mondrian. Both artists' work draws from a similarly pure set of colors and shapes on white, but while Mondrian's compositions are held in a rigid superstructure, the paintings of Malevich project a sense of life and movement, captured momentarily in a state of exquisite balance.

Malevich used simple elements of contrasting shapes, sizes and colors placed at varying angles and sometimes arranged in clusters. From within these whole compositions, a compelling dynamism emerges. For me, they connect both to intellect and emotion.

Though they're from very different times and places, I'm enjoying viewing these paintings while listening to Miles Davis' classic, Kind of Blue. Each enhances my appreciation of the other.
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/4/2000 8:01:19 PM

Sunday, December 3, 2000

Found two more examples of Mutant Snowflakes in print form this afternoon, including a Pacific Bell Wireless ad, from all places, the magazine, Science News!
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/3/2000 7:53:20 AM

Mutant Snowflake sighting! I happened upon these two eight-point beauties at the eToys site Saturday evening. If any of you find other examples of mutant snowflakes, either online or printed, email me and I'll post links and snaps in the new Winter 2000 - 2001 Gallery. I'm really getting into that winter spirit! Where's my Penguin mints?
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/3/2000 12:04:37 AM

Now that genetically-engineered crops have begun to spread via wind, bees, and harvesting equipment, some are calling the phenomenon an uncontrollable form of biological pollution. Monsanto's response has been to try to villainize and sue farmers who, possibly because of nature itself, end up with patented genes in their fields. This is akin to a careless farmer, whose rogue bull has gotten lose and impregnated his neighbors' cows, and who then drags the neighbor into court to demand monetary damages along with the whole cow herd itself!

Read about Saskatchewan farmer, Percy Schmeiser's battle to fight Monsanto's legal attack on him after discovering a percentage of his canola seed crop contained their patented genes. Schmeiser's farm is surrounded by other farmers licensing Monsanto's herbicide-resistant canola seeds, but he has worked for years to develop his own seed stock, which he uses a portion of for the next year's planting. This is a very ancient and common practice in farming, but one that clashes with the chemically-intensive agriculture conducted with new herbicide-resistant crops. Because it's impossible to keep pollen and grainary equipment off his land, Schmeiser contends that it's Monsanto, and not him, that should be put on trial. And that is exactly what this lone, but determined farmer is doing. Perhaps Monsanto shouldn't have gone and picked on a guy who's made three attempts on Mount Everest!

I find it disturbing to read of Monsanto testers going out and taking samples from farmers' fields and grain trucks. And financially rewarding informants (generally bioserfs with expensive Monsanto licensing deals), who've passed on tips regarding their friends and neighbors suspected of illegally using the mutant seeds. It's like some sorta Green Acres Police State!

I heard about this story from an interesting piece this afternoon on Wisconsin Public Radio's program, To The Best Of Our Knowledge.
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/3/2000 12:01:13 AM

Saturday, December 2, 2000

'Tis the season to notice just how many ignorant advertising designers there are!

I've created a new winter game - Find The Mutant Snowflakes. See how many dumb eight-sided snowflakes you can find printed on signs, bills, and publications! Play alone or with friends.

Meanwhile, check out these historic photographs of real snowflakes made by Wilson A. Bentley (1865-1931), a self-educated Vermont farmer, who also was a pioneer in photomicrography. Take in a slideshow of some of Bentley's work.

You may also be interested in finding out why snowflakes freeze into such intricate patterns, and how temperature and humidity determine whether snow crystals freeze into thin plates, needles, hollow columns, sector plates, or dendrites.
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/2/2000 12:41:26 AM

Friday, December1, 2000

My pal Dennis pointed out this interesting article on tetrachromats - mutant women born with four types of color-sensing cones (instead of the regular three for people with normal color vision), allowing them to see colors in an enhanced manner. I had no idea such physiologies existed, but evidently these women are exceedingly rare. I've often wondered what it would be like to see (with our natural eyes) into the ultraviolet and infrared ranges. Tetrachromats however, are capable of seeing an entirely different color range positioned between the red and green spectrums.

Being somewhat red/green colorblind myself (enough to flunk the tests), I've always been very interested in color vision and how it works.

When I was in college, taking a color theory course, I had an opportunity to compare what I saw with what others around me with normal color vision saw, using Pantone chips. Two things became apparent over the semester, regarding my color vision and how it compared to others':

1 - A person's color vision could be represented by a dimensional plotting. The visible color spectrum can be divided into equally spaced points (colors) for testing an individual's color vision as chroma intensity and value level is decreased. The results can be plotted as an irregular, dropoff curve, probably varying as the testing moves along the spectrum. As the testing proceeds along the entire visble color spectrum, these individual slope profiles can be stacked to extrude a dimensional hillside that would represent a person's color vision profile.

2 - I speculate that colors along the portions of the spectrum I have cone deficiencies for, look somewhat similar to me as they do to others, only darker. Stopsigns and Coke cans seem pretty red to me. Grass and John Deere tractors look green, green, green to me. Really bright and vivid. But I think my color vision begins lower and drops off much faster than normal people's when the chroma (color intensity) drops toward the pastel range, or when light is lowered. For example, I simply can't see the green in oxidized copper. And low-chroma pastels like light pink and mint green can sometimes look similar if faint enough or in low light.

The component of the red and green spectrums that I "don't see" yield an overall darker effect to the color. i.e.: that light is actually not being picked up, so the source appears darker. This is why when I was little and was asked what color the purple crayon was, I'd answer, "dark blue." And likewise brown looked like "dark green." To put it another way, if there were a blue and purple that people with "normal" color vision would see as having the same value (light to dark), I would see the purple as darker, on account of its red component that I'm not picking up. And I often confuse pure green on a monitor (R0, G255, B0) with bright yellow (R255, G255, B0). It only looks slightly "darker," sorta mustardy I guess. In fact, I never think of this pure RGB green when I think of green, since I have trouble recognizing it/distinguishing it from yellow. The green has to be enough into the blue spectrum as grass green before I start recognizing it as green.

In my color class we had to each make large posters using a 24 x 24 grid of one inch square pantone chips. I made something using randomly distributed colors, but alternating light, dark, light, dark, etc. in a subtle checkerboard pattern. Towards the middle I used brighter colors and towards the outside I used progressively more pastels. To me it looked clearly like a checkerboard that got fainter towards the outside. To everyone else in the class it looked completely random. They couldn't see the checkerboard!

It's surprising, but I've been searching for years and have found very little published on color vision beyond the old Ishihara tests that have been around for years. One would think color vision would be graded similarly to, say, nearsightedness or farsightedness. After all, we don't simply go around saying, "he's blind, she's normal, she's blind, he's normal" and so on.

I contend that color vision could be mapped for individuals as a 3D "hillside" which represented the color spectrum horizontally and the steepness of dropoff at any point along the hillside denoting the rate of perception dropoff for that portion of the spectrum. It would be plotted using datapoints gathered from a randomly-flashed set of computer graphics. I imagine the test cards or graphics themselves could be configured very much like the Ishihara graphics, only there would be more of them, representing finer differentiations of chroma and value ranging from full intensity and value to none. My graphic above hints at what a resulting plot of test results might look like, though it doesn't show the variance in chroma and value that I envision also being encoded in the plot. The Y-axis would represent intensity of chroma and the X-axis for each slice would represent the lightness value from full intensity to completely dark. Dips and steeper dropoffs along the Z-axis of the spectrum would show color vision deficiencies.

The test would be structured similarly to a hearing test where various tones and volumes are played. The computer would interpret the results from any one test as a point on a particular color's sloping curve, ultimately assembling all the datapoints into a hillside graphic. It seems that the resulting map would be quite a bit more informative than the Ishihara numbers-in-the-dots tests as they are used. Case in point - my uncle is also colorblind, but quite a bit moreso than I am, with him having difficulty seeing oranges growing in a tree (I have no problem with leaf green or orange orange). Yet we're both coarsely defined as "colorblind." I believe there should be a much more precise measurement and rating of colorvision. That way, I could compare my color vision profile hillside to his and see how they differ, where along the visible color spectrum, and by how much.

So if anyone's wondering why I'm so into DeStijl color schemes of white with black and bright color accents, now they know why! Luckily, in the computer world I have my trusty RGB values to guide me by the numbers. Unfortunately though, I can't compliment my wife on her lovely 255/212/212 dress.
- posted by JIMWICh on 12/1/2000 12:02:18 AM














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