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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Chocolate Distraction

Some friends liked this story recently, so I thought I should write it down.

A number of years back, my buddies and I were driving West on the transcanada highway across the prairies. It was my turn driving. At a point of the highway where it was undivided, I got distracted by unwrapping my recently purchased chocolate bar that was sitting near the shifter. I had my left hand on the wheel while I tried to unwrap the bar with only my right hand. I was so distracted, that ultimately a friend loudly announced something like "Uh...ROAD!"

I quickly looked up in time to notice I was driving straight into the ditch...on the other side of the highway. Having trained in years of video game driving skills, I quickly recovered and did a 180 while sliding along in the ditch...all the while still holding onto the chocolate bar. The car sped out of the ditch back onto the highway, 90 degrees to the normal expected direction of travel and I smashed into a bird flying across the road. I'm sure you're familiar with the birds that draft across the highway perpendicular to the road. Well, as my friend said, "they usually don't expect cars to sneak up on them from the ditch".

I did another 90 degree skid and then slowed to a stop. I went back to move the body off the road so it wouldn't get run over. I felt bad for sneaking up on it.

Burton MacKenZie www.burtonmackenzie.com

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Scary Green-Eyed Raccoons

The other night I was riding home on my bicycle from 7-11, and a large moving mass coming out of a back lane scared the crap out of me. The large part of it ran away, and the smaller parts ran up a local telephone pole. It turned out the big scary moving mass was four raccoons, a mother and three kits. I've seen a handful or two of adult raccoons before, but this mother was the biggest I've ever seen - easily bigger than a laundry basket. The kits were about the size of housecats. Here's a composite picture (click for a bigger version) of the shots I took of the two kits that ran up the pole. (check out the scary green glowing eyes!)
Raccoons
I was kinda surprised that the mother ran away rather than attempting to protect her kits from me. (Not that I would have harmed them, but the first rule of dealing with animals is to never come between them and their young!) Raccoons are wild animals and should not be approached for any reason! DO NOT APPROACH THEM! They are a popular vector for rabies, as well as potential carriers of baylisascaris and distemper!

I don't have much more to say about them except that the police (late night substitute for animal control around here) said that they had already had a report of raccoons in the area, and that the animal control people told them raccoons are really good climbers and not to worry about them up a telephone pole, unless there was a transformer on it. (which would mean much higher than 120/240 volts)

To round out this post, here's a couple pictures of two other local mammals.



Burton MacKenZie www.burtonmackenzie.com

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I can't drive 55!

When sampling a signal, the Nyquist limit determines the maximum frequency of the bandwidth of the sampled signal that can be uniquely restored. If you are outside the Nyquist limit, the signal gets aliased back into sampled signal, leading to heartache and woe.



In the included movie (above. If you can't get it, here's an alternate link), the clock face is sampled at a (virtual) rate of 55 minutes per sample. Since it takes the minute hand one hour to complete a revolution, to represent it we should be sampling the signal at 30 minute intervals at a minimum. Because we don't, the minute hand gets visually aliased and it looks like it is moving backwards at a much slower rate. The minute hand frequency is aliased such that it looks to be almost the same frequency as the hour hand!

The hour hand, however, takes 12 hours to complete a full revolution, so sampling it at 55 minutes per sample is well under the Nyquist limit (6 hours per sample) needed to uniquely represent it. By sampling at 55 minute intervals, the minute hand is aliased to a rotational frequency very near that of the hour hand, making them appear to rotate at the same rate in the video.

The toy cars actually do represent a related topic. Because they are not "blurred" (something stop-frame animation lacks), we can tell that the capture pulse is a delta function relative to their motion. If there were blurring, as we see with regular movie camera type filming, we'd know that the size (in time) of the capture window was on the order of apparent angular motion relative to the lense.

There's a lot of math I could go into at this point, but it's already covered reasonably well in the links.

Burton MacKenZie /

Credits: The video was produced with the help of The GIMP, VirtualDub, Audacity and TMPGEnc; fine products, all.

Addendum: There are at least two problems with this first draft short. Will be fixed in sequels/directors cuts or whenever I get the time. (i.e. never)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Spiders are Fast!



I shot this video today. The camera is held in one hand while the other is gently tugging at the web (via a long twist tie) to lure the spider out, hence the camera shake. The video is at 15fps. I encourage people to watch the spider in a frame-by-frame step. I'm going to do a better version of this video (with slow instant replays! :), but wanted to throw this up right away. The audio is removed to save bandwidth and so you don't hear me scream like a little girl.

Check out how fast that arachnid moves! They are damn scary predators. I never actually saw the spider run back into its nest - I thought it had fallen. It wasn't until I saw the video that I realized it ran home, and at great speed! You can see in the frame-by-frame that even a lightweight spider still follows laws of inertia.

Burton MacKenZie www.burtonmackenzie.com

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Tonight I was listening to 'Metal Without Borders'. They played tons of stuff I've never heard before (which as you might know, music I've never heard before is my favourite music), so I enjoyed it.

Some of the tracks were what one might classically call "Devil Music". Some listeners might find its lyrical content enthralling as it makes them feel rebellious against [insert common subject of rebellion]. However, said "Devil Music" is not the opposite of what it, itself, purports to rebel against (i.e. worship of the god from the mythos that includes the devil, that is, the Christian god), lack of belief in said mythos its true opposite - atheism! The "Devil Music" lyricists are actually still promoting the same mythos of the Christian god and the devil as a real one. It should be realistically grouped together with Christian rock.

From the viewpoint of an atheist, devil praising lyrics (typically) in Metal have as much weighty effect as one might get from lyrics praising Thor, and could be as preposterous as listening to Hutterite Metal lyrics about how they're "...going to [eat] with the women!" (and ostensibly rebelling against that which the Hutterite religion tells them). That Finnish band Lordi makes my eyes roll back into my head as I try to choke back the drippingly laughable irony of the stage act that accompanies their music (of which I haven't heard enough to judge, but they did win the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest). I think I see a deeper tip of the hat to Spinal Tap (you guys rock!).

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Burton MacKenZie www.burtonmackenzie.com

 

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