Monday, November 11, 2019

Spotted in the air

I'm on my way to Bogota to try and level up my language abilities ... and Aryeh spotted my plane in the air! Fenomenal :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Check the Jury pool

I was called up for Jury Duty and want to share my thoughts on the experience.

The judge in our orientation video was bragging about how fair the jury system is. The video mentioned a few times that it was so important for us to be there – waiting specifically inside the jury pool room. They had books for us to read, some cat puzzles, chess and trivial pursuit. Twenty odd strangers in the room at  8:30am – it was dead silent. After maybe four hours I took my headphones off and noticed that the room was still dead silent.

I spoke up and asked if anyone wanted to play chess ... more silence, now awkward ... finally a nice older man said "are you going to play with imposant and all that?" then agreed to a match. It was a delicate glass chess set, with a rook missing and a cracked bishop that couldn't stand up. Another juror gave us some paper and we improvised new pieces. Since the silence had broken, people all over the room began talking about their kids. My chess opponent blundered because it was difficult to see the paper pieces.

A judge came in to make an announcement – wearing those fancy robes like they do. The lawyers had settled the case without going to trial, but she didn't want us to feel like we came in for nothing. She told us that the lawyers only settled because of the hanging threat we posed. The thought that all of us random jurors could stop pooling down in the basement and become empaneled to pass judgement struck fear in both sides of the legal entanglement. Our "common sense" would have the final word, no matter what evidence – in fact no matter what the law states. Our jury pool was a stochastic killing ax held high by the judge; and I was struck by the plainness with which it was explained.

They wanted us to feel that our role was meaningful. But like a piece in that broken chess set, I played a pawn in the Massachusetts Court System.

[Juror orientation video]

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Eagle at Tranquility Base now has an AirBNB review

It has been a couple days and the Lunar Lander is still up on AirBnb.

And now - my friend Daniel has left an official review! (This is the second time Daniel has been featured on the blog!)

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Eagle at Tranquility Base now on AirBnb

Happy 50th anniversary of the first Apollo Moon Landing! It has been fun watching the whole mission in pseudo-real time on this website:

To celebrate I posted the Apollo 11 Lunar Module on AirBnb here (recommended you go quick because rooms are filling up and the mission could be cancelled at any moment):

"Local activities include walking around, driving around, rock hounding and golfing."
Thanks fellow bloggers Aryeh and Eli for contributions!

For posterity - here are some screenshots:

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Meeting Richard Stallman

I ran into Richard Stallman recently, the founder of the GNU Project! We were attending a future of transportation public meeting and he was advocating for transportation free from tracking by government / corporations. I asked him for a photo and he said it would be OK as long as I turned off the location settings so the image of him wouldn't be tracked. So I turned off location settings and put the phone in airplane mode too. Richard Stallman closed his eyes so that they couldn't scan his retina - or he blinked, not sure.

Anyway, Google was way too smart - and when I looked up the photo I noticed that it had "estimated" the location to be exactly where it was taken. So I manually changed the location to the city where I live ... according to my facebook ... the lovely island of St. Helena. The person blocked out in "people" is me (unlabeled) and not Richard - which is a good sign tracking-wise.

Below is the little manifesto that he was handing out, I have huge respect for the man and what he is working towards.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

How to improve the NYC skyline

Recently I've been working on an artistic visualization of data project so my mom showed me this incredible video advertisement meant to be played on Samsung TV's to show off how 4K they are.

Towards the end they show a shot of a beautiful city skyline at sunset... beautiful except that something felt wrong with the main building - what kind of architect wouldn't put a spire on top of a building like that?

Checking Google Earth we can see the photo was probably taken from the top of Rockefeller center in NYC. A very instagram famous spot which you can recognize immediately in the still from the Samsung movie.

Borrowing a photo from jenonajetplane and we can do the split frame and see everything they changed. This one is taken from a slightly lower angle - probably the instagram window as apposed to the rooftop view.

The Bank of America Tower lost its antenna along with the savagely mutilated Empire State Building and freedom tower off in the distance. The Jersey City skyline remains unchanged including 30 Hudson St. but the Statue of Liberty is gone. Finally, the sun should be setting much further to the right (West).

Now that we've established that these Samsung animators are simply taking instagram famous locations and adding super-saturated colors ... I'd really like to go visit those flying forestbacked turtles.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Realistic paper snowflake design

realistic paper snowflake

It is that time of year when people make absolutely horrible paper cutout snowflakes in shapes that couldn't possibly exist. Sometimes even with 8-fold symmetry instead of 6.

I was tasked with creating some snowflakes for our office holiday party in a laser cutter and decided to go for real looking snowflakes instead of the fake garbage.

Luckily, someone on the internet already had this idea and published an instructables article about making 6-fold symmetry snowflakes --- including two that they painstakingly cut out to match actual photographs of real snowflakes.

So I took the photos of their paper snowflakes and turned them into vectors files that could be used in a laser cutter.

They turned out so well that they inspired another user of the same makerspace to use the files and create some for their own company holiday party decorations... which I found out only because I was coincidentally attending the same party!

Of course I was really glad to see the snowflakes there and so I decided to put the design files up on Thingiverse so that anyone can download them and make their own, without further ado here they are!

Feel free to comment if you've made some or have any suggestions.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

FELINE Magazine for cats by cats

There is something special about cats (and chickens), they do not make any facial expressions. This allows us (humans) to be really good at projecting imaginary emotions onto cat photos and is one reason for their proliferation in memes. Having lived with a cat for about a year now I've learned that cats behaviors can be quite complex and inexplicable, it seems like the cat has some agenda that you just aren't privy to.

Some friends and I decided to give a voice to these cats, in a fashion magazine based on Vogue or Glamour. Naturally we have an exclusive interview with a celebrity cat "Venus the Two Faced Cat" who has 1.6 million instagram followers (and counting) and who my Mom already knew of. We also have lots of fake ads and I even pushed in a couple real ads in for Astro Ledger and Loud Bicycle, targeted at cats of course.

Anyway this magazine has been super fun to produce, and yes, we will be actually printing glossy copies 52 pages long.

Sorry this part now sounds like an ad but seriously if you want to get the magazine for yourself or a friend then check it out here and use the coupon code KAZUL for $3 off

Welcoming comments and questions below as usual!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Visiting world heritage rice terraces of YuanYang China 1/2

My goal for this visit to China was to see the rice terraces of Yuanyang County, Yunnan – a world heritage site. I've wanted to go ever since seeing this photo on the Bing homepage.  The photo is by Jialiang Gao, who has an impressive collection of photos on wikipedia - and an equally impressive number of uncredited photos on posters and tourist guides around the region.

Like many things in China - the scale is most impressive. Supersaturated telephoto pictures like the one above make it look like painted terraces going on for infinity - but seeing them in person in the context of the larger mountain still is quite impressive. If you can't visit yourself, please take a tour YuanYang on Google earth:

The terraces are stunningly beautiful, and part of that is knowing how much effort went into building them, all manual labor by people sometimes waist deep in mud and always using hand tools. The scale is so vast that you can barely see the people when there in person.

Up above all this - there is a little tourist villa - with a jacuzzi I could see through the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the terraces. I travelled there to see the terraces myself – but sitting in a jacuzzi watching working people pile mud for kilometers around me ... seems a bit too similar to the Monty Python sketch with Arthur and the "peasant."

To make things at least slightly better, the actual farm workers don't appear to live in poverty. They have nice houses with out-of-place looking water buffalo wandering everywhere. Lots of babies and kids lived there, tended to by the older generation - but middle aged people and young adults seemed to be completely missing. Likely off working in the cities. After thousands of years, I'm afraid this World Heritage Site will quickly become an archeological site.

One thing that was interesting - is that the colorful local dress you often see in pictures of women from Yunnan - that actually is the way they really dress - and not even just on special occasions it seems they wear super-colorful headgear non-stop, even while working in the fields.

OK now for just a bit of detail on how to get there in case you want to see it in person for yourself. First fly to Kunming (one of the biggest cities you've never heard of - with a metro area population of over 6 million).

Then take a train to Jianshui, a nice little historic village (population 490,000). From there - the rice terraces are only a 3 hour drive away. There are tourist busses, but I shared a cab for a total price of about $80 for the day, which included gas for the trip - and stopping whenever we wanted to get out and take pictures. (email me to get the contact info of the local driver who was awesome).

Even the local Baidu maps was directing us down roads that were too narrow to drive down, but Google maps definitely cannot be trusted at all navigating the more remote areas since it doesn't even have roads in the right locations.

Some particularly scenic places were actually in just about the right google maps locations here and here.

And here are a few more photos that I took along the way. Notice the water buffalo in this one:

Stay tuned since the next post is going to be all about the engineering of these things!