How Fast Have You Driven

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With the exception of flying, driving is probably the mechanisim by which humans can travel the fastest. I’ve driven fast — probably faster than most. While I lived in Germany I routinely drove about 160 kph (99 mph) but I would, in some sections of the autobahn, drive between 180 and 200 kph (111 – 124 mph).

I know for a fact that BMW put a govenor on all their vehicles preventing them from going faster than 260 kph (162 mph) as they feel that at speeds greater than that, the human reaction time is insufficient to safely navigate a vehicle on standard motorways. Porsche, however, does not impose such a limit — one reason the German Highway Patrol drive Porsches[1].

Oddly, however, my personal land-speed record didn’t happen in Germany and not in a sports car. It was done in a 1976 Chevy Nova somewhere between Salt Lake and Richfield, Utah. As I recall, the Nova’s spedometer is labeled to 140 mph. I remember pushing the needle past 140 — way past — until it was maxed out. Judging from the spacing of mph increments, I would guess I went about 160 or a little more. Not to detract from the accomplishment, I was going downhill and the engine sounded like it was going to explode and the car body vibrated so badly I wondered which would fail first, the structural integrity of the car or the engine. Much to my delight, neither happened and I continued to drive the car until I moved to Germany and sold it to Shawn.

So now the question: How fast have you gone?

fn1. This is a generalization as each region of Germany is very proud of the automobile factories in their area. Thus, BMWs are typically driven by law enforcement in southern Germany (Bavaria) and Porsches in northern Germany (where Stuttgart is).

Researchers Pinpoint Brain’s Sarcasm Sensor

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In an interesting article on today I read an article that details that researchers have found what area of the brain is responsible for recognizing sarcasam.

As many of you who know me are aware, I personally have great dificulty recognizing sarcasm. Although I’m not totally oblivious to it, and I get better at recognizing it the better I know someone, it is rather dificult for me to pick up on it — especially with new people.

It seems that the region of the brain that processes sarcasm is linked with empathy as well — which would also describe why I have a hard time with gossip and small talk (both of which empathy more than one would initially realize).

I do not, however, have brain damage… just in case you were wondering.

Wanted: Internet Enabled BBQ

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Some of you have heard me dream about this before but I serriously want to do this. I’m able to put money on this project too as my wife has witnessed first hand the dificulty we both have watching the temprature of the BBQ to ensure it is in the desired range.

Here is the basic functionality that I need:

1. The ability to take the temprature of the inside of the BBQ and, on a timed interval, determine what the temprature is and whether or not it falls above or below set thresholds.

Ideally this would be done with some kind of PHP script that would keep trend history and be able to show a graph on a web page and send an e-mail if the BBQ is too hot or too cold.

Added Functionality:

1. Additional sensors that would show the apature of the two air vents.

2. Fuzzy logic algorythims that would predict when more coals or wood needs to be added to the BBQ.

3. Wireless networking capabilites.

Now for the problems:

Two big problems exist that I have not been able to solve.

First, I have not been able to find a temprature sensor that can withstand up to 500 degree Farenheit tempratures. The BBQ is mostly between 200 and 300 but occasionally it can get very hot — up to 500 — and I don’t want to damage the sensor.

Second, I need a way to attach this sensor to a computer, either through a serial, USB or ethernet connection. I would love to use something like the NetSilicon DigiConnect ME device (manufacturer link for the Picotux here). Which could be an embeded linux device and all I would have to do is attach a network cable into it. I belive there is also a wireless module for the Picotux as seen in this Gizmodo article.

If anyone can help me out here, I would be truly appreciative!

Cheap Digital Picture Frames

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I’ve always wanted a digital picture frame. Easy display of photos, photo slide-shows, and possibly even showing video clips all seems very tantalizing for me. But I’ve always known it was cool and always wanted one.

The first comercial digitial picture frames were hundreds of dollars and required a modem connection and a monthly subscription. True, it allowed you to purchase a picture frame to give to Grandma and then you could upload new pictures that would automatically display on her frame. What grandmother wouldn’t love that? But the price prohibited it from really selling.

Even now you can go to CompUSA and buy a Ceiva frame — but it costs more than I’m willing to spend (used prices on eBaY are still about $80).

Luckily there are enterprising individuals who see a problem and say “hey, I can make something like that for a fraction of the cost” and they forge ahead, ignoring how much time it actually takes and stand back with pride knowing that they saved money[1].

Here are three different digital picture frames that people have written about:

1. The $11 Digital Picture Frame
2. DIY Touchscreen LCD Picture Frame
3. Laptop on the Wall

I’ve got an old notebook computer I’m thinking about ripping apart and making into a digital picture frame. So someday I’ll get some time to finish my telescope and make the picture frame.

fn1. The typical conversation with the wife goes something like this:

Man: Look at this, honey! I just took my old notebook and made it into this digital picture frame!

Wife: Did you take out the trash like I asked you?

Man: Yes. I mean, no. I mean, I’m going to do it in a minute. Check out this picture frame!

Wife: My sister’s husband won’t take out the trash either… do you want to be a looser like him? Huh?

Man: I’ll take the trash out in a minute! Look at this picture frame I made you — I saved a ton of money doing it myself, and it can even have a slide show!

Wife: Where do you put the pictures in?

Man: You don’t… it’s digital! You upload the pictures into it.

Wife: I don’t see any pictures. It’s just black.

Man: Well, it’s not plugged in. Tell me where you want it and I’ll run the CAT-5 cable and power to it.

Wife: You have to plug it in? What kind of picture frame is that? None of our other picture frames need power. Seems like a waste of electricity to me.

Man: Dammit woman — you’re missing the point!

Wife: I don’t think so. The point is that you didn’t take out the trash like I asked. Do you want to be a looser like my sister’s husband?

[end scene]

Clearwater, FL – Home of Hooters

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While I was in Clearwater Florida I had the occasion to be taken to the home of Hooters. For those who don’t know, Hooters is a restraunt that panders to men by employing buxom and flirtatious waitresses who don’t mind working for their tip. The first Hooters ever was in Clearwater Florida, where I was staying. Although I didn’t eat at the very first and original Hooters, I did eat at the second restraunt which, from what I was told, is exactly the same as the first.

The reality is, however, that Hooters employs none of the gorgeous women who abound in their comercials and the food is quite abysimal. I suppose people don’t go there for the food, however[1]. When I ate there my waitress was pregnant (which didn’t stop her from having a smoke break) and wasn’t at all interested in re-filling drinks or even in bringing our food. Odly, however, she did try and chat us up when it came time for the bill — a transparent attempt to earn a good tip (which didn’t work).

But restraunts like Hooters are all the rage in Tampa, Florida and several knockoff companies have abounded. From talking to the residents in the area we were warned which were good and which are bad. I present the following list for your education.

1. Hooters
2. The Wing House
3. Mugs ‘n Jugs
4. Cooters

After Cooters there is some great debate which is worse and, in the absense of any kind of consensus, I will leave the rest of them off.

fn1. The first time I ever went to Hooters it was in Sandy, Utah and I went with a bunch of friends from work. We were away from the office for the week for training and the nearest place to eat was, unfortunatly, Hooters. So never having been there I was surprised that the tables are all very tall, requiring one to sit on bar stools. “How odd” I remember thinking until the waitress arrived when I realized that our seating height was the perfect one for looking at boosoms. How dreadful! Our waitress was cute and spoke first to Todd Crow. She said “how would you like to start off with an appetizer?” to which Todd replied “Uh-huh!” She then said “You look hungry, I bet you would like some wings, right?” Todd, again, said “Uh-huh!” Then changing her voice to a more sultry tone she said “A big strong guy like you — I bet you could eat 20 wings, am I right?” Todd again nodded and said “Uh-huh!”

With that she said she would be right back with our wings and she left to submit the order. I asked Todd if he was OK and he said “I don’t know what she just asked me but I sure am happy about it!” We all laughed because she did one heck-of-a job upselling using her boosoms! Poor Todd, he wound up eating them all just to prove that she was right even though I think he was quite full by the end of lunch.

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