Monday, January 14, 2008

self mating socks

Okay, maybe not the best product name in the world, but what does an engineer know about naming products. We just call them like we see them.

It all started one morning when my wife was complaining yet again about not being able to find an actual pair of socks. Naturally I offered to help, but the question "aren't these a pair?" was met with a snort and the look, clearly indicating that I couldn't tell that those two socks were not really identical.

This ritual had been performed almost daily since we were married, but for some reason this morning it struck a nerve and I was determined to use technology to solve the problem once and for all. Socks that would find each other. Self mating socks.

For several days I thought about socks and socks and socks. The first problem is that you buy more socks that just a single pair. So how would each pair know that they were not the same as the other two pairs from that bag. That and how to make what ever solution worked keep working about laundry day.

Well, the first trial run was not really the success I was hoping for. My wife comes in to the work room and looks over my shoulder, "So, you wanted a large ball of socks?" she asks.
"No, I was trying to get the individual pairs to mate." I reply tartly.

So obviously just messing with giving the socks some sort of charge was out. You ended up with a large ball of clean socks sitting in the middle of the dryer. Fortunately after the kitchen incident I thought things out more, and had purchased these socks at the local thrift outlet instead of using socks from around the house.

Experiments with magnets showed about the same result. One large ball of socks, sort of Koosh (tm) looking, but not really the desired result.

Working on a different project that involved muscle-wire (tm) as well as RFID and some really strange ideas on micro-robotics, I had a breakthrough on the sock issue.

So now the socks are really well behaved. Each pair has a pair identity that they know and share. So when they come out of the dryer and start cooling, each one seeks out it's mate.

So what should they be called, that won't devolve into mirth at the mere mention of the name?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

District 13

Banlieue 13

Or District 13, if you have the American release.

An action move by Luc Besson in the spirit of "The Transporter" or "Wasabi", staring David Bell as Leito and Cyril Raffaelli as Capt. Damien Tomaso.

The movie is in what amount to three acts. In the first act we meet Leito the local boy who is trying to keep his building from becoming a graffiti covered haven for crime. He is busy trying to get rid of some drugs when K2 (who has his name shaved into his head) and the hard boys show up to reposes said drugs. Things get worse from there. Leitos big mistake comes at the end of the act.

In act two we meet Damien the local cop with a bad attitude. He spends the act taking down the local crime ring gambling establishment. I should note that the take-down of the big boss is fabulous and makes the gang in Oceans 11 and 12 look like complete amatures.

Act three is when our unlikely pair of heros team up to take on the local crime boss of District 13, who has accidentally ended up with a nuke in his hands. The nuke, I might add, has a countdown timer running and only a few hours left before the barrio is leveled.

The writing is good, and the acting is sharp. The chase scenes are Jackie Chan at his best with some Jet Li thrown in for good measure. If you are an action genera fan, I really recommend this movie.

The subtitling in English is a little week here and there, but for the most part either sub or dub is worth watching.

Also, Bell and Raffaelli are well and away the best pair of action move jocks this decade. I would watch for them in upcoming films.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Growth Industry next decade

The growth of high-rise assisted living buildings here in Seattle is startling. There is one gowing up in a rather dubious location on Denny with a rather steep walk to and from the local grocery, transit, etc.

So why are these popping up like giant mushrooms in the wet weather? Well, in looking at the statistics for population and aging, I see that the Baby Boomers are all aging rapidly and will be living in those assisted living communities in the next twenty years. According to the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging by 2030 approximately 20% of the population of the US will be over 60. That is a huge amount of population needing elderly care of some form.

With so many people moving from homes to assisted living, or moving in with the kids or grandkids to be taken care of, I think that the 2020's housing market will be an interesting slide. However, the rise of high-rise assisted care buildings in the 10's will be great.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The start of a new year

Time to think on what I want for the new year, and what I want rid of from the old.

I think it's time for a wardrobe purge, among other things. As well as maybe a cleaning of the bookcases.

The goal this year is to land and complete at least one freelance project. Either software or writing, not really sure yet which it will be, but one must be bid, granted, completed and billed.

The other goal is to update this journal much more often. I will take once a day on week days, but that is the minimum.

Book Review - Iron Sunrise

Once again Mr. Stross delivers an excellent read.
Following our protagonists from their strange and divergent starting points, through their journeys and ending up at a common meeting point was quite the ride.

The only down-side was that the bad guys feel a little too much like Nazis. Calling them the Remastered makes sense, but still sounds a little too much like the Master Race to me.

On the plus side, having an AI as the Deus ex is vastly amusing and handled very well. Knowing that there is something watching through time to keep humans in line really helps drive some of the more subtle parts of the story.

The view of technology in the future is also quite excellent and deep. From implants that allow you to talk to the computer network and get e-mail in your head to the young girl noticing that hers are no where near state of the art compared to those on the plant she arrives at give a good insight into the future of strange and personal technology. Throwing in biotechnology as well as silicon and neural components make a strong mix that more closely parallels the real world than many authors.

All in all this is another must read from Charlie Stross.