Category Archives: Entertainment

University Email Simulator

A generic version of the email you will receive on a daily basis from the University of BS (Which is probably the school you deal with), as you will read it after the first few repetitions. Graduates can relive their college experience, or, for current students, simply stop checking your email and skim this page every day.

From: Dean of Posterior Coverage <>
Subject: Mandatory CYA Training
Body: All students need to take this course that the university paid a fortune to a third-party ed-tech carpetbagger to license, which provides the absolute minimum coverage of an issue required under a new federal regulation. Everyone must take it, because otherwise we might be liable for your behavior.
This is why tuition is so high.
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I binged Neil Stevenson’s new[ish] novel, Seveneves, in the last 4 days while I should have been doing other things. I’ll call it my holiday. It isn’t my favorite of his (that would be Cryptonomicon followed by Snow Crash), and it isn’t my favorite genre piece, let’s call it long-perspective hard SciFi, but it’s damn good, and extremely fun. I have some thoughts that may be worth sharing.
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It’s Complicated

I finally finished danah boyd’s recent book It’s Complicated, and It’s one of the best pieces of non-fiction I’ve read in years.

I always feel there is a dramatic shortage of people equipped with both the appropriate formal methods in the social sciences and technological sophistication to make credible, meaningful, observations on technologically mediated culture. danah is reliably the best of them; I’ve read quite a number of her papers and articles, and the book is fuller and more readable than either.

Almost every passage roughly follows a pattern of statement, with attribution, relevant anecdote from original research, message. It is meticulously referenced (roughly a quarter of the book’s volume is appendices and references), which comes off a little academic, but anything less conscientious would end up being the kind of prognostication much of the book is trying to correct, and the actual writing comes off as far more pleasant and readable than it sounds. It is occasionally repetitive, but every time the repetition asserted itself, it was clearly a case of “I keep saying this over and over and they just don’t get it” rather than any sort of sloppy writing.

Occasionally, there are wistful references to the internet I grew up on; the author is about a decade older than I am, and grew up on the leading edge of the internet I was on the trailing edge of. The one where Ender’s Game (Locke and Demosthenes plot), True Names, and Ready Player One can happen, before the carpetbaggers arrived in force and (to quote the book) “When teens go online, they bring their friends, identities, and network with them.” situation asserted itself. I’m pretty sure my generation killed that different identity system, and buried it behind us (One of her early notable efforts was documenting the introduction of Friendster, which was in some ways the beginning of the end).

At least once a chapter, I found myself in vigorous agreement with some message being presented, enough that if there were people around when I was reading they could tell. The vast majority of the observations, while based in research into teens, also seem to generalize reasonably well to the behavior of most populations. The only unfortunate part is that I suspect the people making decisions about youth and technology who desperately need to hear what it has to say are not going to be the ones to read it.

Note that there is a PDF copy right on the author’s site, so even if you don’t want to go buy it, you can legitimately peruse it for free.

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I will be at SC’13 November 16-21 with the of Kentucky research exhibit again this year in booth 629. Media and impressions should appear somewhere in my ‘net presence during and after the conference, it is always a good show.
Edit:Pushing photos from the show floor into this album.

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Gigabit to The Home BoF Opening Presentation

I gave the discussion-starting talk for this week’s CS departmental BoF session. The topic this week was “Unlimited Internet bandwidth – Would it be a game changer or no big deal?” My opening talk was just to get people up to date on the current events to kick off a discussion, though it is very similar to asking “What will we do with the internet” in the early ’80s, and thus rather difficult to suggest up plausible cases that aren’t “The same thing but faster.”


Gigabit to the home is rapidly becoming a reality. Programmable hundred gigabit networks are already being constructed. Cellular networks are improving so fast that people are dumping their wired connections in favor of wireless. In short, networks are becoming so fast that one can begin to imagine a world where bandwidth is essentially unlimited.

But how would the world change if we had (essentially) unlimited bandwidth to everywhere? Would it change anything? Don’t most apps already have all the bandwidth they need? Aren’t networks already fast enough to support “the Cloud”? Have we already max’d out on bandwidth? Are there any super-cool apps that could still be enabled by even faster networks? If so, what are they? Will they be truly radical, or just an incremental improvement?

Come and find out at our next CS Bof, Friday, Nov 1 at 3pm when we will debate whether there are apps that will benefit from even faster network speeds. If there was unlimited bandwidth, what new apps could *you* see emerging? Join us Friday to dream about the possibilities and give your opinion.

Slides , Notes

In a related note, I’ve made slides for several presentations recently in Beamer, including this one, and I’m pretty convinced I’m never voluntarily using Powerpoint or any obstinate WYSIWYG slide system again. Beamer is a superior tool for the job for every kind of presentation using slides I’ve ever run into.

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The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of The Year Vol. 7

While I’m writing up things I’ve done recently, I finished this year’s edition of the Jonathan Strahan edited The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year collection. As in previous years I’ll mention the high points.
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Shapeoko: Part 6


I’ve been working on my Shapeoko in little fits and spurts that individually haven’t been terribly documentation worthy, but in aggregate are pretty interesting. Continuing from where I left off in Shapeoko: Part 5, I’ve iterated a bit on belt tensioners, switched to a commercial breakout board, put the spindle under computer control, attached the spindle to the machine, made some tentative test cuts, and added hall-effect endstop/homing switches to the X and Y axes.
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Babylon The Master Builder’s Puzzle Cube


We have been printing out little puzzles to test dimensional accuracy on the 3D printer in the lab, and it reminded me of a cube puzzle I had as a kid, which is now rather difficult to find information on. I’m putting this on the ‘net largely because coming up with search terms to unify all the relevant information was nearly impossible – I had to go root around at my parent’s house to find my set to connect all the dots. It was the source of many ragequits as a child, and it would be a shame to deprive future generations of the same …stimulation.
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Learning to LDP

I’ve wanted to learn to LDP (Long Distance Pump) since before I started skating. Every summer, I spend some time trying to learn to pump, and make minor adjustments to my setups to make it more practical, and for my efforts I could impart energy, but my setups have always been sufficiently sub-optimal that I only managed sustain speed with a pump a handful of times, and never accelerated.


This summer I decided do it right. I bought the classic inexpensive LDP truck set (A Bennett Vector and a Tracker RTS, I picked the 5.0 and 129mm variants respectively), modded them for LDP, and installed them on my suitably sized deck with suitable bushings and wheels.

Distance skating attracts the best sort of crazies – It’s something of an equipment sport, so they tend to obsessively purchase and modify gear. It’s remarkably physically demanding, so there is a lot of the classic solo endurance sport mentality. It also has carryover from the “raah hardcore” skate world. Fortunately, the internet has brought together the appropriate crazies at sites like Pavedwave and skatefurther, where the discipline has been developed from its roots in the 70s.

Designed-for-LDP decks (Subsonic Pulse, LBL Walkabout, RoeRacing Mermaid, etc.) are boutique items and tend to cost in excess of $150 for the bare deck, so I wanted to ease in financially in smaller steps since I’m not sure how capable I’ll be. Most sources say 26″ to 31″ is suitable for an LDP wheelbase, and my Pakala III is around 25.6, so it is manageable if a little tight-pumping.

The mods for the trucks are pretty interesting, I implemented a number of the suggestions from this excellent thread on the pavedwave forums.

On the Bennett, I made myself a nice Polyoxymethylene(aka Delrin/Acetal) insert for the pivot. I think the technical name for this thing would be a bushing, but since that term is already in use for trucks, people have taken to calling these “hobo sphericals” or “fixed spehericals,” as the more elaborate alternative is to install a spherical bushing. I saw that Griffin sells fixed spehricals for Bennett trucks that look to be machined out of some flavor of Polyoxymethylene, looked at the sheet of 1/8″ Aceteal I had for another project, and decided to DIY. For those looking closely at the numbers, the insert is a little thinner than ideal (0.125″ sheet, gap depth measures around 0.16″) but it seems sufficient.

I hacked a small chunk off the sheet, held it under the truck pivot, and scribed the diameter into the sheet with a pin. I then did the typical chords-and-90°-angles center of a circle stunt, sanity checked it against a washer, and drilled the center to 25/64″ in a couple steps (starter drill, some intermediate size grabbed at random, 3/8″ because I wasn’t sure how sloppy I was being, then 25/64″) — Kingpins are 3/8, and it should slide freely, so a V letter drill would probably be technically correct, but I’ve never contrived an excuse to own a letter drill set, and was free-handing it with pliers and a handheld drill anyway, so 25/64. I then followed my scribe line with a coarse sanding drum chucked into a rotary tool, and fitted/finished it with a finer sanding drum. I’ve checked on it a couple times as I fiddle with the configuration, and it seems to be holding up and doing its job.

If I ever get my Shapeoko into shape for this sort of thing I should be able to punch out some nice precision parts for this on it.

On the RTS, I clipped the wings a bit with a file, as apparently the wings will chew up the pivot cup if you don’t. I then polished out the file marks and the whole pivot pin on both trucks with some tripoli compound and a felt wheel chucked up in a rotary tool.


At the moment I have the Bennett wedged to +10°, with Green and Yellow tall Reflex barrels, and the RTS at -7° with some blue Khiro barrels I had around, both stacked on top of 3/4″ of risers to keep it from biting – gives a ~5″ ride height, which is not ideal.

I built up speed by pumping the first time I stepped on this thing (and then wheelbit, got some road rash on my elbow, installed some more risers, and accelerated again without the painful sudden deceleration). I’m still clumsy and slow pumping, and I’m sure the setup can be improved, but it feels wild, and the dedicated trucks make a world of difference.

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Adventures in 3D Printing

The MakerGear M2 3D printer the KAOS lab ordered arrived last week. I am thoroughly impressed with the machine and how little fussing has been required to get decent prints out of it.

I’ve been pushing annotated pictures of our adventures with the M2 to a G+ album, because the auto-upload from my phone is too good to give up, even if the G+ album manager sucks. Take a look to get a taste of our massive new distraction.

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