Archive for February, 2010

Ramps and What not.

Friday, February 26th, 2010

The Five Craziest Ever Done on a BMX Bike.

Since Matt shared what happens when you build a shoddy ramp i thought I link to something a bit more pro.  I’ve seen a few other crazy things but this is a good start, maybe atop ten to round out a couple of other bangers but this should prove entertaining.

Remember kids wear your helmet…


Building PDFs from a Camera

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

So, being as how I’m a cheapskate and all, I’m using one of Sue’s old textbooks for a class this semester. It’s a couple of editions behind, but everything in the content seems to be the same. Naturally, though, they’ve changed the exercises. And since the homework is based on the exercises, I need those.

Well, for the first few chapters I borrowed the book from a friend and ran it through the photocopier. But it’s a big, thick textbook and a real hassle to copy. So for the next bunch of problems, I took a different approach.

1. I used a digital camera to take snapshots of all the pages I needed.

2. I copied all of the photos to a single directory on my (Linux) computer.

3. I used ImageMagick to convert each photo into a PDF, and drop those into a directory named “PDFs” under the current one:

mkdir PDFs
for i in `ls *jpg`; do convert $i PDFs/$i.pdf; done;

4. I used pdftk to stitch them all together.

cd PDFs
pdftk *pdf cat output final.pdf

5. Ta-da! Now everything is in one PDF file, one photo per page.

No Cussing

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

The California State Assembly is apparently debating whether or not to declare the first week of March “Cuss Free Week”. Residents of the state would be encouraged to avoid profane speech during that week.

Yeah, this is definitely the most important issue facing California today.

“What’s that? We’re paying IOUs to vendors because the state is broke? Angry students are occupying buildings in the CSU system to protest tuition hikes? Well, let’s take a look at that swear jar legislation.”

Engineering Talent

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

So, despite the fact that every car since the Reagan administration has been chock-full of electronics and computing bits, and despite the fact that this is a prime reason for the current troubles with Toyota, the NHTSA does not employ a single electrical or software engineer. (Warning: link is a PDF.)

Well, that’s awesome. Let’s hear it for government efficiency. Just because everything in a car is controlled by millions of lines of intricate computer code is no reason that anyone familiar with such a beast should be in your employ. It’s not like you’re responsible for maintaining safety standards on America’s highways or anything.

Wait, what?

Thirty Minute Ramp

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

So, what happens when you quickly build a ramp and try to jump your cheapass Huffy off of it into a pond?

Hilarity is what happens.


Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

The South Carolina Pittinaro Motor Pool has recently seen the number of roadworthy cars increase by one. The 1978 Mercedes Benz 300D was picked up from the fellow who repaired the transmisison and driveshaft for me and brought back home. It was an interesting deal; I’d bought a rusty ’85 300TD as a parts car up in Asheville, and this fellow agreed to take the parts car in trade to repair the much nicer 300D. I think I ended up giving him an extra $100 to cover an oil change, new springs in the front seats, and a fuel tank cleaning, too. Pretty reasonable for Mercedes service.

I’ve been so happy to have the 300D back that I’ve put about 250 miles on it since picking it up last Thursday. I had to work this weekend both days, and I used it as my commuter. The 80 horsepower 5 cylinder 3 litre diesel isn’t exactly a sprinter, but once up to speed, it stays there, and the ride and handling is very…German. In my opinion, its one of the best cars to come out of the 1970’s. I know that’s not saying much, but the W123 body Mercedes (240 and 300) are considered some of the most durable cars ever made.

One small thing I still have to fix on the 300D is the radio antenna; specifically, it has none. Luckily, the radio does sport a rectangular-shaped slot into which one may insert plastic cartridges containing recorded music. For those of you too young to remember them when they were common, these were called “cassette tapes”. And I just happen to have a Snoopy suitcase full of them, most of which I hadn’t listened to in years- some, many, MANY years. Cake, the sound track from The Repo Man, Big Band from the 40’s, and Johnny Cash were some of the motley tunes I enjoyed. I even discovered some mix tapes I’d cut off of, which used to (and may still, I haven’t visited the site in probably 8 years) have free music from new artists to download. Ska, Punk, Psychobilly, and even some country and Americana, from artists probably long forgotten.

One particular favorite of mine: Thalidomide Redneck. (Google “Hick’ry Hawkins”)

Toronto Auto Show

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

I spent Saturday at the Canadian International Auto Show. I took a bunch of pictures, too.

As much as I like the Buffalo Auto Show, the one in Toronto is just unbelievable in comparison. Not only is it far, far larger but the variety and the number of marques is more impressive. The Buffalo show experience could be replicated with a drive down Southwestern Boulevard – Ford, GM, Honda, Chrysler, Toyota. Toronto gets Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati, Tesla and a bunch of other stuff that I will never, ever see in the wild.

Plus, they always do a historic section. This year was a tribute to Carroll Shelby, and that’s what most of the pictures are from. Wow.


Monday, February 22nd, 2010

An interesting article in the Buffalo News from this weekend, one which ties in nicely with last week’s post about the public perception of higher education institutions.

SUNY at Buffalo is, by far, the largest university in Western New York. UB2020 is an ambitious plan to further expand it, both in population and geography, to rival the large public research universities in other states.

This article asks whether chasing research dollars is going to have a negative effect on the quality of undergraduate education at the institution.

The Chapel

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

There’s an evangelical church in Amherst, known simply as “The Chapel”. I’ve been there — it’s more TV studio than cathedral, with stadium style seating and an impressive AV setup. Now they’re expanding into Lockport, and the diocese is not happy about it.

Over the last few years, the Buffalo diocese has shut down dozens of churches as part of the euphemistically named “Journey in Faith and Grace”. As you might expect, this has alienated a tremendous number of people, but the Catholic Church still seems to be calling “dibs” on them.

From the article:

“I know that they’re saying they’re only going after the unchurched, but their definition of unchurched includes a lot of people who are marginal Catholics and marginal Protestants,” said Lorie Duquin, who coordinates an evangelization program for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

I love the word “unchurched”. I would imagine that most of the people who fit that category are lapsed from one thing or another. I don’t see why they’d be off limits.

I showed this article to Sue yesterday, and her response was simple. “It’s like a pizzeria owner complaining that someone else is opening up a pizza shop on your block. So what? Make better pizza than them, or you’re going to lose your customers. Alienate your parishoners, and they’re going to look for another church.”

Sense of Humor?

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Sarah Palin continues to prove she has absolutely no sense of humor whatsoever. I pray for the GOP’s soul, if that woman ever gets near a leadership role again.