Friday, October 31, 2008

Spooky Glowing Halloween Lego Men

I wish I had the compunction and drive to make this really cool glowing Lego zombie and headless horseman for Halloween decorations.

It is explained at the Evil mad Scientist Laboratories and doesn't look too hard. Just jamming some LED's into their drilled out heads and bodies. Creepy.

(via Boing Boing Gadgets)

World Champion Philadelphia Phillies

"World Champion Philadelphia Phillies", don't you just like the sound of it.

There is a parade today at noon down Broadstreet in Philadelphia and I aim to be as far away from that as possible. Still I celebrated when the won on Wednesday night in one of the weirdest World Series games ever.

They didn't break my heart this year. They went all the way!

Go Phils!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Test your color IQ

In this quiz, move the color tiles around until the tile are lined up by hue and color. Lower scores are better, zero is perfect.

I got 8, but I bet if I color calibrated my monitor I could have gotten zero.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My debut album

Follow this process to generate your new band's name, debut album and album cover art:

1. Click to get a random wikipedia article. The name of the article is the name of your band.

2. Get a random quotation. The last four words of the last quote is the name of your debut album. Reload the page to get more random quotes.

3. Explore the last seven days at Flickr to get some album art. The third picture is your new album cover art.

My new band, Unexpected Company, will be performing "All Your Fine Trappings" on our first album. Here is the art.

I think the process worked rather well for me. What's the debut album for your new band?

(via Prefsurfer, via This Could Only Happen to Me, via a DIYnot forum post, via a random e-mail forward)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One week to the election - Democratic electoral win in simulations

There is essentially not change from last week in the electoral vote simulations as predicted by the InTrade prediction market data for each state.

The median vote tally for Obama has crept up to 345, but the states in the strong and weak Democrat, and strong and weak republican columns have remain almost the same. With Indiana and Missouri wobbling back and forth but not changing party identities. MSNBC and others still try to make this look like a race, but the prediction markets say otherwise.

I will run the simulation again one more time next week before the election is over and then we can do some analysis.

Gravity Wave Clouds over Wilmington Delaware yesterday

There were these strange cloud formations over Wilmington, Delaware yesterday around 5pm. There looked like the clouds were large waves with light and dark areas that looked like a frozen undulation across the sky. I recalled that there is a cloud effect called gravity waves and I tried to get a picture or two with my cell phone. Unfortunately the pictures don't give the full effect. You could see many bands of dark and light depending on the direction you looked and the waves stretched from horizon to horizon, it was very eerie. I took two pictures pointed to be next to each other to try to give a sense of the scale.

Looking slightly left (approx west north west)

Looking slightly Right (approx north west)

This youtube video shows an time-lapse example of gravity waves over Toma, Iowa that gives the full effect.

I didn't have the time or equipment to try to capture that much time-lapse motion of our gravity waves clouds yesterday. So many natural phenomena, so little time.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Current Reading List and Just Read List- Science Fiction, Fantasy, History and Words

I tend to let my list of favorite authors pile up books for a while and then get them all in mass clump and then read them voraciously. At this rate I will fill up the new library far too soon. I have a plan to show how there are some similar themes in the science fiction I am reading lately. Multiple/Parallel worlds being the most important. For now just the lists:

Retiring... of the just read and reading list to the side.

And adding:
Reading to come will be:
Perhaps I will get around to reviews as I read them. Apersual of the lists shows the science fiction you would expect, some fantasy though some of both of these are young adult novels. History and words from Sarah Vowell and Bill Bryson.

Market Indicators for fun and profit

Somewhat for my own benefit and because of some discussions I have been having with others, I have been collecting market indicators in an attempt to find the one that best captures, for me, the turmoil in the markets and the various sectors of the global financial system that are affected. This means not only stock market indices, but something to capture the credit crisis, the housing crisis and the price of oil and gasoline (perhaps other commodities later).

Firstly, places to find charts of the world stock market indices:

For the United States, Google Finance reports the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ (really NASDAQ is the stock exchange and the Nasdaq Composite is the index).

The Nikkei 225 is an index for the Tokyo Stock exchange. Nikkei 225 charts at Google. Nikkei 225 charts at Yahoo.

The Hang Seng is an index for the Hong Kong stock exchange. Hang Seng charts at Yahoo.

The FTSE 100 is an index for the London Stock Exchange. FTSE 100 charts at Yahoo.

Two other items of interest in recent times have been housing prices and oil prices:

The Case-Shiller index follows housing prices in 20 cities and normalizes them to a baseline of 100 in January of 2000. Standard and Poors has downloadable files of the S&P/Case Shiller Home Price Index each month. A look at the past few years shows the nice bubble that is one of the things causing the financial crisis. You can't always have prices of things run ahead of salaries.

More data than you can stand about oil prices, volumes and its related products is available at the Energy Information Administration. I started with the US imports of oil by country tables here and clicked various other buttons on the petroleum navigator bar at the top of the page.

Finally, I was looking for an indicator of the credit crisis:

The TED spread has been mentioned in a few blogs of late(TED Spread quote at Bloomberg). I myself was looking for an indicator to understand the credit crunch part of the problem. How can one see whether banks are lending to each other or not. I settled for the LIBOR which is the interbank lending rate. The TED spread takes this further. TED stands for T-Bill for treasury bills and Eurodollar which refers to the LIBOR rate and often involves loans between euros and dollars. It is the LIBOR 3-month rate minus the 3 month T-bill rate. The reason for that is that the T-bill rate is a measure of the least risk you can undergo loaning money for 3 months, everyone expects the US government to pay back the money on a T-bill. Loaning money between banks is riskier so the LIBOR tends to be higher, the TED just subtracts the baseline least risk. Usually this number is 0.5% but lately it has been shooting up to 4% and 5%, an obvious indication of banks unwillingness to loan to one another and a reflection of the credit crunch.

Are there other favorite indices that my readers are using to understand the crisis that might be helpful?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The best view I ever had from a toilet

The Mail online ran an article on the toilets with the best views in the world. Many are on the peaks of mountains or the edge of beautiful ocean vistas. Most would be worth visiting.

It reminded me of one outdoor toilet on Easter Island. It was at the ranch where we stayed the night during our horseback riding trip around the entire island. This ranch was within walking distance of Terevaka which contains Rana Raraku, the volcanic crater and quarry where the special stone for the moai (the stone heads) comes from. You could see the volcano dotted with moai that never made it to there final locations. Unfortunately some of these pictures were only taken with the old crappy Treo camera, so they'll never be in a glossy magazine.

The Toilet

The View.

The Moai on the volcano closeup.

Mostly carved but unfinished moai in the quarry itself.

The view of camp and the toilet from the volcano. The toilet is next to the red house. Click on the picture for larger.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Democrats maintain their formidable lead in Presidential Electroal. Vote Simulations

Barack Obama still holds a formidable lead in the presidential electoral vote simulations based on the state by state InTrade prediction market data. From today's results, the Democrats win 99% of the simulations and the median electoral vote count is 340.

There has been little change in the assignment of states to strong and weak categories except that previously weakly Republican Indiana has strengthened for McCain. If instead of the median we look at assigning the states based on the state by state prediction market data, the totals are 364 for Obama to 174 for McCain.

I imagine that the race will still tighten in these last two weeks. It will be interesting to see if that is reflected in the prediction markets.

Maybe he's not from around here

The delaware license late seems to indicate residence but the personalized license OCANADA suggests a more exotic origin or perhaps a hockey fan.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Honest Hypocrite Soda

Honest Hypocrite Soda, Enjoy!

Make you own, here.

(I just like the Pilsbury Doughboy, OK.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Customizable sign generator for fun and profit

Long time readers might remember the robot warning sign produced by a different sign generator. This one has a different interface, but still allows a certain amount of customization.

I think the warning symbol is for heat, but it does look like grass.

Make your own. Link to them in the comments if you think they are worth sharing with the world.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

30 Hockey teams in 5 minutes - can you do it?

In honor of the start of Hockey season Mental Floss, asks if you can name the current 30 NHL hockey teams in five minutes. I like these quizzes where you have to come up with the list off of the top of your head. They are tougher that way. I only occasionally follow hockey these days and it showed in my score - 18 out of 30. The average on the quiz was 67% (~20 out of 30). There are some teams that I had heard of after they revealed the answers but never would have remembered on my own.

I bet Sarah Palin would ace this one. How well can you do? Take the quiz.

(via Neatorama)

(click to make bigger to see the ones I missed )

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Simulations asymptotically approach certainty for Democratic Electoral Vote Win

This week the electoral vote simulation pushes even closer to a certain Democratic electoral vote victory. Of 1000 simulations only 21 have the Democrats with less than 270 electoral votes based on the probabilities from the Intrade prediction markets. The chart below shows the distribution of 1000 simulations. 98% of the simulations yield a Democractic victory, and the median electoral vote count for Obama is 337.

I would guess that the Intrade prediction markets have digested all of the Obama vs. McCain polling data, the financial crisis and any other information about polling in the various states to slide even further over to the Democratic side in each state. This has the interesting effect of putting states that a few weeks ago were strongly Republican over into the strongly Democratic side. According to the Intrade prediction data the Democrats are weakly holding Missouri and North Carolina, never mind previously weak states like Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virgina that are strongly Democratic now, and the Republicans are weakly holding Indiana, as former battleground states become too solid to shake.

This data will be slightly different than the polling data since it is a prediction market site, but I still laugh when CNN or MSNBC tries to pretend we are still in a horse race when it looks like a solid Democratic victory is predicted at this point. I doubt the debate tomorrow will move anything one way or another. Three weeks to election day.

The cardinal rules of being a Broadway producer as applied to the finanicial crisis

It seems to be that with all of this buying up of toxic assets and equity stakes in banks and Wall street financial firms, that the federal government has forgotten the cardinal rules of being a Broadway producer:

MATTHEW BRODERICK (as Max Bialystock): The two cardinal rules of being a Broadway producer are: One, never put your own money in the show.

NATHAN LANE (as Leo Bloom): And two?

MATTHEW BRODERICK (as Max Bialystock): ( Shouting ) Never put your own money in the show!

(from The Producers)

Monday, October 13, 2008

If the East Coast Is American enough For Al-Qaeda, It should be American enough for ...

Jezebel excerpted the exact quote I wanted from Sarah Vowell's interview on the Jon Stewart show on Tuesday October 7th. Sarah complained that Palin and the Republicans pay lip service to New York's bravery in 9/11 and then call New Yorkers "elite" and unpatriotic behind their backs. Sarah said, "They wrap themselves in our attack and then they leave and talk about what snobs we are."

My favorite comment from Vowell was this one: "If the East Coast Is American enough For Al-Qaeda, It should be American enough for them." Them being the aforementioned Republicans.

I like Sarah Vowell's books and their quirky take on history. I even forced us to visit the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio because I was reading Assassination Vacation at the time. Her new book is The Wordy Shipmates.

A quiz for people who know everything!

My regular readers would know that I would have to tackle a "Quiz for people who know everything". There are nine questions. A starting sample -
1. Name the one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends.

2. What famous North American landmark is constantly moving backward?
I like the introduction (seemingly written by the McCain campaign) -
These are not trick questions. They are straight questions with straight answers.
I got 6 1/3 out of nine questions (missed two, and only got one third of another). The comments section disagrees with some of the answers. Which is to be expected as this is the internet.

Readers, how well did you do?

(for the photo to accompany the quiz, I was torn between Einstein, Sherlock Holmes and Ken Jennings, which should I have picked?)

(via Neatorama, via Miss Celenia, via Big Shot Bob in Texas)

Prius at 4444 but only in base 10

Reached another arbitrary milestone on the Prius this morning. It is almost time for a checkup.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Democrats running away in electoral college simulations

As the Intrade prediction markets digest the effect of the economy on the popularity of Obama vs. McCain in each of the states, there continues to be a movement towards Obama in many of the states and thus overall in the electoral college simulations.

The results of 1000 simulations using the Intrade prediction data as the probability that a given states electoral votes will be for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate show Obama winning 95% of the simulations. The median electoral vote count is 319 for the Democrats. The table below shows just how far Obama has pulled ahead of McCain in these simulations over the last few weeks.

Formerly String Republican states have gone weak and then over to the Democratic side. All of the states mentioned in previous weeks as being in the middle have moved to the Democratic side and a new crop of formerly Republican states have become up for grabs.

The states that are weakly Democratic now are Florida and Virginia. While now North Carolina has moved to exactly even, and Missouri has moved into the weak Republican category. I suspect the race will even out a little bit more before the end, but this looks like a commanding and perhaps insurmountable lead according to the Intrade prediction data. It will be interesting to see if the debate tonight really changes anything.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Eyeballing it

The eyeballing game asks you to adjust a point be eyeballing it. How well can you do?

My score, based on the average error was 3.68. You can see I fared in a distribution plot for the lst 10,000 results. Can't go wring with a statistical plot, I always say.

(via The Presurfer)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Fantastic Contraption flash game with fun physics

Popurls pointed to the Fantastic Contraption flash game with the simple premise of moving a piece to the goal. You have to design machines to do so. The physics of it is hypnotizing. It will suck up hours of your time.

I built this conveyor belt to move these four balls to the goal on the other side of the hill. You can run the conveyor I created here. It used up so many parts that I couldn't add anything else to it. The funny thing about this one is that not all of the balls make it through on the first try. Some of them jam up underneath the machine, but then get cycled around the top and then swept on their way. There are no points for style or optimization, just complete the required activity.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Mama mia! Abba license plate in Delaware

This ABBA license plate actually looks a little funny without the backwards "B" we have come to expect. I wouldn't put it past the Delaware DMV to let that be one of the characters. They do let you have capital I's that look different from the regular ones for first, second or third.