Monday, March 31, 2008

Mets @ Marlins

Yay Johan! Way to get out of the fifth, and then eight K's. Not bad a first showing at all. I miss Moises, as usual. Watching baseball rules.

Also it's my centennial post. Word up.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Keeping Currency Current

Matt Yglesias thinks we should get rid of the penny. And of course we should. But as commenter "pseudonymous in nc," uh, notes, that's really too little, too late.

The whole point of having both paper and metal currency in circulation is that small denominations that get used in most everyday transactions are durable and easy to tell apart (coins), while large denominations can be carried around without resorting to a forklift (paper notes). Bills should be used to pay rent, or your taxes, or to make big purchases, while a couple coins should suffice for buying coffee or lunch or movie tickets.

Not only is this currently not the case, but we're not really even anywhere close to this ideal. Almost nothing costs less than a dollar (at least in the city), and the only widely circulating coins much worth paying attention to are quarters, but only because you need them for parking meters and laundromats.

I propose doing away with the penny, nickel, and dime entirely: the quarter dollar (the ha'penny of tomorrow) would be the new lowest denomination coin, and we can keep the Sacajawea (or whatever the current dollar-coin iteration is). To that we'd add $2, $5, $10, and $20 coins. People are used to getting twenties out of the ATM machine, so we can start the paper currency there for the time being, also preserving the fifty- and hundred-spot notes and adding new bills for $200, $500, and $1000.

So nobody gets mad about anyone currently featured on a coin or bill being disappeared down the memory hole, we could just carry them over to the new denominations. Lincoln, Jefferson, and FDR would be on the $5, $10, and $20 coins, respectively; Washington, Lincoln, and Hamilton would be on the $200, $500, and $1000 notes; and whoever is currently featured on the $2 bill would go on the new American Toony coin.

Since the $100 bill will remain unchanged, no rap lyrics that reference "benjamins" need be updated. Everyone's happy.

Update: Here are some mockups. I also forgot about the half dollar, which I guess we may as well preserve.

Improved coin denominations

Improved note denominations

Monday, March 24, 2008

More 3D Photos

I did some more 3D stuff. Got a couple somewhat blurry ones around the house, and one in particular of some houseplants on the windowsill that came out really nice. Also a good shot outside the post office and one inside taken on my celly (a violation of the 3D PATRIOT Act X-Treme). And one of my blood getting drained by the vampires at the NY Blood Center.

I decided to put everything into a 3D set on Flickr.

More 3D Stuff

I don't know why this didn't occur to me before, but it's totally easy to take 3D pictures with a regular camera. I found a tutorial on how to do it, but it basically just boils down to dropping the green and blue channels out of the left eye image and the red out of the right and multiplying them together.

My first attempt was kind of wack, I think because the two images were too far apart and not parallel. It's my mouse and tea mug:

3D mug

Then I took this picture of my bike, which I thought would be a good reference for my 3D pencil drawing. It came out amazing, despite the right image being a little blurry. It looked good enough that I went back and redid it in color. Still awesome. The handlebars and near pedal really jump out:

Color 3D bike

And finally I did this picture of my messy desk and bookshelf. It looks alright:

3D desk

I think the first and third images both suffer from too much variation in depth. You can see that, e.g., the laptop screen in the first picture and the phone cord in the last one are way far apart from each other in the two channels, and when you look at them through the glasses those parts are not easily resolved into coherent objects without refocusing your eyes.

Now that I had more of an idea how to work with this stuff on the computer, I scanned in my original ink line art that I had traced for the 3D pencil drawing. I separated it into red and blue/green layers and then moved stuff around and the results are actually okay:

3D bike drawing

I plan to keep playing with this stuff...I definitely need some 3D cat photos, and I want to try the drawing kit with some better pencils.

Friday, March 21, 2008

3D Bicycle Drawing

A couple months ago Peter and I were talking about how to do 3D drawings. I was thinking of just doing line art and then shifting stuff around in different colored layers on the computer. But Peter happened to come across this little 3D drawing kit and picked one up for me:

3D drawing kit

It's this little plastic "compass" that holds a blue and red pencil in place so you can draw with both of them at the same time at a fixed distance apart from one another. Here are the instructions from the back of the package:

Drawing kit instructions

And here it is in use as I draw some practice shapes:

Drawing kit in use

Today on my day off I was fiddling with my bike, and I swapped out my flat bars for some drops from a bike salvaged from the trash a couple months back. I did a quick ink drawing of it so I could trace it with the compass:

Bicycle drawing

Here's the finished drawing. I started tracing at the rear wheel with the pencils very close together and then as I worked my way "forward" I moved the pencils farther apart. I'm not sure how well the 3D ended up working, but it still looks sort of cool:

3D bicycle drawing

Update: as soon as I posted this and was looking at the finished drawing again, I thought to check something. The blue pencil that came with the kit is totally the wrong color: if you hold the red lens of the glasses right against the paper then you only see the blue lines, but if you look through the blue side then both lines are clearly visible. I think actually the pencil is close to "true blue," whereas the glasses are cyan. I'll have to pick up a cyan pencil and see if I can get better results.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I'm a Terrible Roommate

I often let the cat box go for days, or even more than a week, without being scooped. With two cats, that's a lot of stank.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Last week DU told me about Amazon's "mechanical Turk" program, which is basically a framework that allows the hiring of human labor to accomplish very small tasks that are difficult for computers.

The implications are pretty awesome (in the sense of inspiring awe) and extremely creepy, and as DU pointed out its primary application right now is probably using Indian labor to game search engines and other similar sketchiness. Which is nothing new, of course; Amazon is just democratizing something you'd previously have had to contract out for.

In any case, it made me think that a good use for this would be political astroturfing. At one point in 2005 I tried to turn myself into a sort of volunteer Democratic operative on one web community. I created a pseudonymous account, and every day I would look at the DNC's latest press release and then go post a diary echoing the DNC's claims in my own words.

The intent was to help counter the constant drum of GOP talking points propagated by the Right-Wing Noise Machine. This proved essentially impossible, simply because the whole way the Might Wurlitzer works is through repetition: by the time you hear someone repeat some anti-Kerry slur reported by Wolf Blitzer as what "some leading Democrats are saying," you've already heard it from half a dozen Rush listeners, Leno viewers, workplace know-nothings and your great uncle's email list. As Digby reminds me, it's the constant reinforcement of these memes that makes them "stick."

In contrast, when I loaded up each day, my first reaction would be "they're talking about what?" Not that their lines of attack were bad, but they just weren't being repeated anywhere: I'd listen to Air America and read a bunch of liberal blogs, and nobody would be focusing on, e.g., deforestation, or whatever the DNC was on about that day. I felt like my efforts were for naught because nothing I said had any resonance.

Anyway, all of this is a long preamble to the idea that something like the mechanical Turk program could be used for this kind of thing really easily. Like, each day have a specific idea or key phrase (say, that John McCain has a history of financial corruption, or just the word "McSame") show up posted by ten different people on each of the ten most popular political blogs or forums. At a dollar per comment that's only $100 a day. And no single comment needs to be persuasive or even really coherent, because the point is to just get it out there and resonating.

Sync these messages up to what campaign surrogates are saying in the media and I think this approach could be really effective. But even when instigated by a single lone actor it would accomplish much more than my solitary shilling ever could.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lewis Lapham on Steroids

On the topic of steroids, that is.

Harper's is my regular gym read, and I find that a month's worth of workouts usually provides just enough time on the elliptical machine to get through one issue, more or less, depending on how well I stick to my exercise schedule and how hard the cryptic is.

Anyway, because of a combination of my ski vacation and general laziness, I've fallen a whole two issues behind, so I just this weekend started reading the March issue, and Lewis Lapham's Notebook entry, entitled "Mudville," is an excellent satirical examination of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball and the American Dream. More or less along the lines of this blog post from a couple months back, but less scattered, more incisive, and funnier.

The text isn't up on their website, but they do have images of the scanned pages, which I've shared below.

'Mudville' page 1
'Mudville' page 2
'Mudville' page 3

Monday, March 3, 2008


After hours of study in the far reaches of internet photo sites, Sarah and I at some point determined that corgis' ears don't come out perked up...they're born with floppy ears, and at some point first one and then the other stands up. We already decided that when we get Bonkers (if he's young enough when we get him) then we'll celebrate both of his eardays.

Anyway, I happened to be looking at pics of Maddi today, and noticed that there's a good portrayal of the corgi ear progression.

Here she is at six weeks old:
6-week old Maddi with two floppy ears

At seven weeks, one ear stands up:
7-week old Maddi with one floppy ear and one sticking up

And after eight weeks, both ears are standing up:
8-week old Maddi with two ears sticking up