Archive | April, 2007

CFL Mercury Nightmare

30 Apr

I came across a story on slashdot.org regarding one man’s “nightmare” from using a compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL). I had no idea that CFL’s contained mercury! I did a little more research and found the following links:

CFL Bulbs Have One Hitch: Toxic Mercury
“But the bulbs contain small amounts of mercury, a neurotoxin, and the companies and federal government haven’t come up with effective ways to get Americans to recycle them.”

“Experts agree that it’s not easy for most people to recycle these bulbs. Even cities that have curbside recycling won’t take the bulbs. So people have to take them to a hazardous-waste collection day or a special facility.”

Exposure to Mercury From Fluorescent Light Bulbs
“The diagnosis was mercury poisoning, and an investigation of his environment disclosed that he had been exposed to mercury from broken fluorescent light bulbs.”

I also found some articles that attempted to minimize the risks of CFL’s, but they seemed to be primarily from companies that sell CFL’s. I would advise educating yourself on the pros/cons of CFL’s prior to using them.

While reading some of the articles, I came across Dimethylmercury (not in CFL’s). This nasty neurotoxin was responsible for killing a researcher who accidentally spilled a drop or two on her latex gloved hand! Absorbing a thousandth of a milliliter is fatal.

Andy McKee

25 Apr

Andy McKee is an amazing guitar player!

Here are some more videos

Pandora.com

22 Apr

Had lunch with Mike F. on Friday and he mentioned a site called Pandora.com. It’s a great free site for streaming audio. Did I mention it’s free? You can create a bunch of channels for different styles of music that you “seed” with a song or an artist. Then you can give a thumbs up or thumbs down to songs as they play, and it will learn about your likes and dislikes and attempt to play songs you like. It doesn’t learn quite as well as I would like, but for being free, it’s pretty handy, and it has already shown me a few songs that I really like that I probably wouldn’t have found without it.

Get started here

anybots.com

22 Apr

Ya gotta love robots 🙂 Trevor Blackwell, the founder and CEO of anybots, worked with Paul Graham on Viaweb which was a pioneering ASP using Lisp which eventually sold to Yahoo! for a nice sum and became Yahoo! Store. Very sharp guy, but I’m quite skeptical that a walking humanoid robot (technically a remotely operated machine since it won’t be autonomous) will be profitable. I hope it is.

Anybots announces the world’s first dynamically balancing walking humanoid robot.

Go to anybots.com for more info.

Time wasters

22 Apr

Outstanding Flash based games

Flash putt-putt golf
If I remember correctly, when I played this putt-putt game back in 2002, my low score was around 27 or so 🙂

Jump a snowman into a BMW

Shave a Yeti

LibraryThing.com

19 Apr

About five years ago, in an effort to organize my library and be able to share titles of interest with other people, I created a simple XML file to catalog my books. Using an XML file allowed me to easily transform the data to be displayed on a web page, but it was time consuming since I had to type everything in by hand, and over the years it stagnated and I stopped updating it. I recently thought I’d update the file, but before I got around to doing it, a friend of mine (Chip H.), mentioned LibraryThing.com, so I checked it out.

It was incredibly easy to use – just type in the ISBN (or other info such as title), and LibraryThing will grab the rest of the data from Amazon or the Library of Congress. Alternatively, you can buy an inexpensive bar code scanner and scan the bar code on a book to save a little typing. The price is free for 200 books or less, but I found it so useful, I signed up for a lifetime membership for $19. They say the lifetime membership is $25, but when you go to pay you’re given a choice of amounts, so I naturally picked the lowest one.

You can see a partial tag cloud of my books below. I haven’t spent much time tagging, but it will give you somewhat of an idea of the type of books I have. Click on one of the tags to see a list of my books with that tag:

The full tag cloud is: here

You can also rate & review books. I found it fascinating to see which of my books were most/least in common with other people on the site. They have over 170,000 users and 11 million books in the system, so you can get some pretty good statistics. I have 48 titles that no one else on the site has (or possibly wants 🙂 ).

They provide an export capability so you can obtain a tab-delimited text file or csv file, and there are a lot of other features that I haven’t tried out, but just the ability to import book data by typing an ISBN number was enough to get me hooked.

UPDATE: the site is listed as ‘beta’, but I haven’t experienced any issues until today. Andrea just gave me a list of 130 ISBN numbers, so I used the import facility to import them all. It worked fine, and Andrea was able to tag most of the imported books, but I just discovered that the public can’t view any of the imported books. I emailed LT; I’ll be interested in seeing how long it takes them to fix this bug.

As I was typing this update, I was notified of an email response from Tim (the owner) who stated he’d take a look at it tomorrow 🙂

UPDATE: Tim has fixed the problem I had with imported books not being visible. Now there is a minor problem with tags containing & characters. I expect that will be fixed shortly.

Inner Life of the Cell

14 Apr

SIGGRAPH award winning animation of the inner life of the cell. To see a version with narration, click the image below, then choose the version appropriate for your internet connection speed:

innerlife_super.jpg

Blowing up a ginger bread house

13 Apr

It’s been a few days without a video of something exploding 🙂 Some friends of mine got together a while ago to explode ginger bread houses in various ways. This was one of the more effective ones:

You can see the rest of them here

BASE Jumping

12 Apr

Today I learned what the “BASE” acronym stands for in “BASE Jumping” from the tragic article below.

BASE is an acronym for building, antenna, span, earth, the four categories of objects from which one can jump in the extreme sport.

BASE jumper dies after leaping from Idaho bridge

Maybe it should stand for “beyond acceptable statistical evaluation” or “beyond any sane evaluation”…

del.icio.us

10 Apr

In my opinion, del.icio.us is one of the more useful Web 2.0 applications. In a nutshell, del.icio.us allows you to do the following:

  1. Easily create a bookmark/favorite for a web site that’s stored on a remote server
  2. Add tags and notes to your bookmarks
  3. Export your bookmarks from del.icio.us
  4. Provide an rss feed for your bookmarks
  5. Provide an rss feed for your tags
  6. Search del.icio.us for web sites that have been bookmarked by others
  7. Use blogging utilities

Let’s consider some of the implications of the above.

1. Remote bookmarks

By storing your bookmarks on a remote server instead of in your browser, you gain three significant benefits. First, if you use more than one computer (or upgrade to a new one), you’ll never have to synchronize bookmarks between computers or suffer from having an important bookmark on a computer other than the one you’re using. Second, by storing your bookmarks on a remote computer that is professionally managed, you’ll have a backup of a very important set of information. Third, you can easily share your bookmarks with others. del.icio.us allows you to mark bookmarks as private, so you can pick and choose which bookmarks you’d like to share, and which you don’t.

2.Tags!

Web 2.0 is all about the tags 🙂 Seriously, hierarchies can be useful, but for bookmarks, I feel that assigning a set of tags to a bookmark is much more useful than trying to place a bookmark in a particular spot in a hierarchy of bookmarks. del.icio.us allows you to edit your tags, rename them, etc., if you don’t get it right the first time. This is particularly powerful in conjunction with searching other peoples’ bookmarks – just think of how awkward it would be to search through each person’s peculiar hierarchy.

3. Export your data

This feature was absolutely essential for me to use del.icio.us. I wasn’t about to add all my bookmarks to a remote server only to be held captive by del.icio.us. Fortunately del.icio.us allows you to export your data, so you can take your bookmarks and go home whenever you want.

4. RSS feed for bookmarks

This feature is quite useful. It allows you to add an RSS feed of your friend’s bookmarks to an RSS reader, so you can be notified of new bookmarks your friend has recently added. Usefulness depends on the person whose bookmarking you’re following 🙂

5. RSS feed for tags

Same as 4, but for following new tags instead of bookmarks.

6. Search

del.icio.us has some great searching facilities. Since del.icio.us knows about a ton of sites that have been bookmarked by people, it can provide intelligent search capabilities that can exceed a purely mathematical approach such as Google in some cases.

7. Blogging utilities

Link rolls, tag rolls and badges, oh my. del.icio.us allows you to place a tag roll on your web site (note my tag roll does not reflect my priorities 🙂 ).

It also allows you to display your latest bookmarks:

my del.icio.us

Get Started

Sign up for a free account on del.icio.us. They make it easy to import your current bookmarks/favorites. If you’d like to share your bookmarks, let me know your account name when it’s setup.

You can see my del.icio.us bookmarks here

And my bookmark RSS feed is here

If any of you existing del.icio.us users would like to share your bookmarks, either post a comment with your account, or email me privately.