Saturday, January 24, 2009

Be an Airport Security Guard

Mr. Spanky is constantly scouring the planet for things. Amusing things. Things that poke fun at the establishment are especially funny. Things that poke fun at the establishment and allow you to remove people's pants are downright hilarious. I just downloaded the game "Jetset" for my iPhone ($4.99US). It's kind of like The Sims meets the TSA. You play a TSA security guard who must remove prohibited items from passengers' carry on luggage and their person. Just like in real life, the prohibited items are constantly changing: shoes, hats, pants, bacon, hummus, spray cheese: these are dangerous items that terrorists could use to commandeer aircraft. You have to be careful, though, to not miss items (security violation) or to remove legal items (rights violation) or to let the line get too long. In this screen shot you can see that shoe inserts, lattes, pudding cups, pants and plastic bins are not allowed (see icons in upper left hand corner). Lots of fun!

One of the things that really peaked my interest was the intertwining of the real world with the game. The game uses the built in GPS of the phone to determine if you are actually in a particular airport. If you play the game in the airport it will provide a special souvenir item that then stays with the game. For example, if you play the game near the San Jose airport it will unlock the microchip (which can become a prohibited item in the game from now on). Ingenious!


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Eat Your Vegetables

Hobbies, we all have hobbies. Some people like playing music. Eating, we all need to eat. Your mother tells you often to eat your vegetables. Most of the time we deal with those two activities separately. Not this guy. He has a whole series of videos up on YouTube showing vegetables that make you toot. Or rather, that you can toot your vegetables. He's got flutes, ocarinas, and trumpets made from broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, daikon radish, and asparagus. SAY and GO, do you think he could replace your band teacher?


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Naked Scientists and LEDs

Witness a late night in Mexico: the vibrant decor at Los Helechos, eating chicken in zucchini flower sauce, a Negro Modelo close at hand, a brief pause in the table conversation occurs. My father, engineer and thinker of strange thoughts, asks to the table at large, "How does an LED work?". I mumble something unconvincing about electrons flying into orbit around molecules and losing energy in the form of light. A hush settles over the table and then talk turns back to our time on the beach that day. That question has plagued me for weeks.

In my diligent quest for understanding LEDs I have stumbled upon a gem of a site called The Naked Scientists. The Naked Scientists are a BBC science radio program, podcast, and web site all in one. They allow you to explore science, medicine and technology news, discoveries and breakthroughs being discussed by scientists and researchers today and include interviews with famous scientists of world-class reputation. What a treasure trove!

So how does an LED work? A Light Emitting Diode involves two types of semi-conductors sandwiched together: an N-type and a P-type. The N-type is heavy in extra electrons and the P-type is full of molecules that need electrons (think of these as electron attracting holes). By applying a current to either side, the electrons from the N jump over to the P and fall into the holes. When they do so they give up their extra energy as light. Check out the great description of this phenomenon at the Naked Scientist website.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hey, Buddy, Can You Spare a Hundred Billion Dollars?

One hundred billion dollars for three eggs? No, this isn't a Photoshop moment, this is Zimbabwe. Latest figures from Nov 2008 show an annual inflation of 89.7 sextillion (1021) percent. Here in the US, you can buy a chocolate bar for about 75 cents. It would be the same as if that very same chocolate bar jumped up in price to $673,000,000,000,000,000,000 in just one year. I may be missing a zero in there somewhere. Yow, that's faster than Mr. Spanky's ever expanding waistline! Needless to say, this basically wipes out any savings you might have had as a Zimbabwian.

Zimbabwe was once considered the "breadbasket of Africa" but has been in an economic meltdown due to land reforms (confiscating land from white farmers in the early 1990s and causing food output to plummet) and sanctions placed on it by western countries, resulting in a failure to pay its debts to the International Monetary Fund. Coupling that with President Mugabe's disputed reelection in June 2008 has caused the country to collapse even further. It makes our current financial troubles look mild in comparison.

There's a fascinating series of photos on the Sojourner's website that show some of the challenges that hyperinflation brings. Like trying to carry enough money to buy that chocolate bar!


Monday, January 12, 2009

Hacking Your Brain

The Boston Globe has a great piece about how to take advantage of those bugs in your wetware. I especially like the Pinocchio-nose trick.

Try these out and then let all of our kidz know what your experience was by commenting on the blog!

DO YOU EVER want to change the way you see the world? Wouldn't it be fun to hallucinate on your lunch break? It's easy to fling open the doors of perception without: All it takes is a basic understanding of how the mind works.

The first thing to know is that the mind isn't a mirror, or even a passive observer of reality...


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Canadian Coast Guard or Roller Coaster?

Hi Kidz! I hope that your Christmas and New Years was as pleasant as mine was. While you were unwrapping your gifts and playing with your toys I was down in Mexico digging my toes in the sand and perfecting my Margarita recipe*.

My father, SeƱor Spanky Senior, sent me some incredible photos of one of the Canadian Coast Guard's Self-Righting Lifeboats performing maneuvers off of Tofino, BC which is on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Apparently, these pictures were taken from shore via a tripod during an autumn storm last year. I stitched them together in Photoshop to create an animation to ensure your attention. Click on the picture above for a closer view. Quite the ride!

The self-righting lifeboats are part of the CCGs Search and Rescue (SAR) Program. The CCG's Pacific Region is responsible for 560,000 square kilometers (210K sq miles) of ocean and 27,000 km (~17K miles) of rugged and often inaccessible coastline. This is somewhat longer than Santa's naughty list.

If you have a penchant for being permanently damp you might want to consider a career in the Canadian Coast Guard. Arrr, Billy, have you ever been to sea?


* Mr. Spanky drinks liquor for medicinal purposes only and in a responsible manner. He's old, he has aches and pains, and the citrus does wonders for his scurvy.