Mon, 9 May 2005

Post Apocalyptic Puzzles

— SjG @ 3:33 pm

I have a strange mania, which comprises various and sundry thoughts involving reconstruction, reinvention, and rebuilding some semblance of structure after some unspecified societal collapse. Maybe it’s because I read too much post-apocalyptic science fiction at too young an age, or because I’ve succumbed to the fear-mongering of the news media, but I often find myself thinking about how I would implement key elements of infrastructure (or even obscure and trivial manufacturing) if the existing order were to fail.

This is not to say I’m a survivalist, or caching weapons, or preparing for The Tribulations. Frankly, living where and how I do, I’d be unlikely to survive a serious breakdown of our society. Maybe it’s merely a fascination with how things work.

This section will include some of these musings.

I’ll start with something trivial: how would I build a machine to manufacture pipecleaners?

The basic idea of a pipecleaner is simple: a large number of short, stiff bristles are held tightly together in a spiral formed of two or more wires. The puzzle is that the tight spiral of wire holds the bristles in position; before the wires are twisted, the bristles are free to move however they will. Using longer bristles makes it easier to hold them in position, but more difficult to twist the wires which will secure them. What’s more, that would require trimming the bristles after the twist is completed, which would be a complicated spiral cut, and would be wasteful.

My best solution thus far is to have a mechanism knot long bristles around one wire, which enables a simple straight cut to correct their length, and prevents wasted material. Then, the second wire is applied, and the two wires are twisted.

Sun, 1 May 2005

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ‘N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood

— SjG @ 1:10 pm

Peter Biskind, Simon & Schuster, 1998

This is really only the second book I’ve read on Hollywood, the first being David Niven’s Bring On the Empty Horses. The books are about very different eras, and they are, not surprisingly, very different books. Empty Horses is a raconteur’s reminiscences, a participant’s tales retold with a certain charm and tact, even when dealing with scandal and excess. Easy Riders is a much denser history, more concerned with the facts, and is written with a distinct thesis. There’s another obvious difference, with Niven focusing on the stars and Biskind focusing on the Directors. But there’s deeper stylistic differences as well. Niven’s recountings each have their own arc, segueing into one another, perhaps, but mostly episodic. Biskind’s retelling is much less linear, telling chronologically parallel stories.

I can’t remember when I have read anything that throws such a bewildering quantity of names and facts per page as Easy Riders does. Lacking Biskind’s encyclopedic understanding of the names and interrelations of the people involved, coupled with his tendency to refer to a person by first name, then last name, then nickname, then role (sometimes all in a single paragraph) I was occasionally left confused.

Yet even with this confusion, I thought the book did a remarkable job of telling the tale of the rise and fall of a generation of filmmakers, gave insight into their movies, and even helped explain the Hollywood of today. It also sketches out the attributes required to become a successful director or producer in Hollywood.

Like Empty Horses, Easy Riders left me with a sense of the personalities behind the movies, but, more importantly, gives some texture to the zeitgeist from which the movies sprang.

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Wed, 2 Feb 2005

Today’s Vision of the Future

— SjG @ 3:44 pm

Today’s installment:

  • everything will have a camera on it.
  • everything will be connected to the internet.
  • everything will have gigs of memory or more.
  • everything will have a GPS receiver in it.
  • everything will serve up targeted advertising based on location, personal history, and other gathered demographic data.
  • everything will play your music and movies to you.
  • everything will spontaneously reboot at least once a week.
  • the job title “Systems/Gadget Immunologist” will be more prestigious than “Doctor.”
  • nobody will brush their teeth or floss; instead they’ll squeeze another tube of plaque-scrubbing nanobots into their mouths once a month.
  • people will network their home theaters, so they can recreate the experience of seeing a movie with other people.
  • houses will be equipped with special systems to play your personal theme music for various activities. Only old folks will use the same theme song for activity_01.01 (getting up in the morning) and activity_07.47 (returning to the house).

Fri, 21 Jan 2005

First toadflax of Spring!?

— SjG @ 2:30 am

In the back yard, the first of the toadflax has begun to bloom. Awfully early for it — doesn’t it know that it’s only the middle of January? But I guess you wouldn’t know it from the weather. It’s been up in the eighties much of the week…

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Sun, 9 Jan 2005 upgrade

— SjG @ 1:55 am

OK. This is a test of the new system. We’re upgrading from 2.1 directly to 3.0 with fancy blogging software. Isn’t it a little late to be jumping on this bandwagon? Yes, yes, yes it is. But this is schnazzier than updating pages with vi.

If you’re looking for all the old stuff, fear not! You can access it via the “Old Stuff” link on the left.

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