Life is a Rabbit Pellet

Ramblings of a Zimbrindian's travels, life, and research.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Jeff Rice of Wired has a great story on what happens at the Smithsonian Institution's Feather Identification Laboratory -- they study what kinds of birds hit flying planes. Well, mostly birds. Sometimes it's a rabbit.

Meanwhile, it's probably a good thing that the Denver Museum of Nature and Science isn't shutting this guy down. That would give him even more publicity. And when the kids grow up, they'll realize that creationism is just a nice story.

Meanwhile, some folks are wondering if Lucas et al based their Jedi library on a more terran version in Dublin. (Interesting similarities actually, even if Lord Lucas denies it, it's possible that an underlying was doing extensive research when designing it...)

3 DVDs of data generated

So these folks from - shall we say, a well-known, large, space-related organization - asked Mark for some frames of the SDSS for part of some IMAX (maybe) video they are making for free distribution to museums nationwide.

Actually, we were told (and we think this is cool) that they'd already used an earlier animation we'd made of SDSS data to show some Members of Congress, and blown it up to IMAX resolution.

So, thanks to some new documentation Stu had posted on the Partiview mailing list, we spent three days doing what before took us several weeks, and generated 12 Gigabytes of an flythrough of the SDSS data. We'll send it off tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Pretty pictures

Randy gave me a copy of the September issue of Astronomy magazine, where an article by Liz Kruesi used a picture from the visualizations of cosmic ray showers we created for Pierre Auger

It's not the first time a visualization of Mark or Randy has made it to a dead-tree magazine that people pay for, but it is the first time for me, so I'm officially quite chuffed.

In other news, the Mapping our Universe, the movie about the Sloan Digital Sky Survey that Daniela et al made and Mark submitted to Google Video has been included in their database --- and they sent Mark an email asking if there's more where that came from!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Celtic Fest

Went to Celtic Fest in Grant Park today with a couple of pals from the Happy Hour Late Shift yesterday. It was cool, but I was surprised to find it had almost exactly the same layout of tents as it had two or three years ago when I was there with Tom and Var.

We went there in the afternoon. In the morning, I moved more stuff into my new place with the help of Tokonatsu (thanks!), who had helped me store my stuff at his place over the summer. Anyway, now I have a frying pan again! And a microwave. And a can opener. Amazing how simple things are important when you don't have them.

The fridge is slowly filling up again. Which is good, because I only have $10 in cash to last me till that check from M gets here. And I can only get the grand or so of reimbursement $ after Wednesday, i.e. I'll actually get it around the first week of October. Or second. This is going to be tight.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Back in Chicago at last!

After ten days in Lisbon for the SigDial workshop (total participants ~ 90) and the
Interspeech 2005 conference (total participants ~ 1300), and a couple of days in England visiting friends and relatives, I'll have to fill up the blogspace of the past few days with details of that. It's pretty hard to blog when things are actually happening all around you (e.g. I didn't blog at ICML) and you are laptopless.

The flight back was United. Midway through the flight, about five minutes after I'd begun to wonder what the Ashes score was and whether I could ask the crew to radio London to find out and had decided against it since it would be too much trouble to explain what cricket was, the American pilot announced that the match had been drawn (cue scattered applause across the plane) and that England had thus won the Ashes (more applause).

I sure hope the people who owe me money pay up soon so I can pay the people I owe money. They've said it would happen this week - hope it does!

Note to self: when getting back from O'Hare with 100 pounds of luggage, don't take a number 6 bus doing a sardine can impression. Very bad for the legs.

Note to self: return those "German 101" language tapes to the Chicago Public Library. They're 2.5 months overdue. (Hey, I got to tape 8 of the 12 tapes...)

After getting off the bus, my luggage and I walked to my new apartment and got the keys from the building manager. It's a nice place - cheap, large, clean - though it's a basement (not good security-wise). Then I got some groceries from Hyde Park Produce and some Chinese takeout. Had dinner, and then went to school to find a couch to sleep on. I won't have a bed for a few days - the nice person (Toko) with whom I've stored my futon is away till the weekend - and my sleeping bag is in my cs office to which another friend has the key. I should get the sleeping bag today. That should be good. I only had four hours of fitful sleep last night.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Pictures from Lisbon

map of Lisbon public transport
We stayed near the coastal subway station called Oriente (near the top right of the map) while the conference was in Belem (near the bottom left of the map). It took about an hour by bus or train - trains were faster, but you had to change a couple of times.

Lisbon public square
This is one of several public squares in Lisbon.

statue in public square in Lisbon
This is some green guy on a green horse. He looks lost. The horse is asking directions from a carthorse (not shown) going in the opposite direction.

The greenies are watched over by an evil guardian angel who guards all those who might give the greenies trouble.

Here's the front view of the angel. He's holding wreaths over two nudist angels and thinking 'I sure wish these human sculptors had known how to use anti-gravity to hold these wreaths up'.

The angels also wish the trains would stop running all the time. The leftmost one in the picture, the one reclining with his back to the arch and knees folded, is telling the others 'You know, I think these trains should ask for directions as well. They keep going around in circles.'

Looming menacingly over the square is a castle where evil wizards keep all the sunlight to themselves.

Of course, when it's night, it's dark everywhere, bar electric lights. You can see the evil wizard's castle from here. It's really really bright, far brighter than explainable by mere electricity.

[Oh, and if Anton, Sounda, or Nilesh is reading this, remember the word "funicular"...]

Moving to the East of the City again (Oriente), we see a signal tower. It's called Lisboabab, and communicates with the aliens who founded Lisbon a thousand years ago. At least it tries to --- no one knows if the aliens are still alive (outside Lisbon).

Surrounding the communication tower are some quite nice buildings. Humans made them. Regarding the building on the left - the architect thought he was drawing straight lines at the time. He also thought his tolerance to port was higher than it was.

The other building is named after a human who went around in circles. Great circles.

Fifteen minutes walk from Oriente is where we lived. No, not in the car! We lived in the pink building on the left.

The view from the pink building: it's always construction time in Lisbon. There are lots and lots of nice new buildings here.

Here's a nice new building! It's the night club where the SigDIAL banquet was. Very cool joint. Very memorable, if I could only remember what it was called...

The only thing cooler than the cool joint was the food and drink (the service was great too).