Programming note to the person who claimed to actually read this crap that I post (Mitchell - are you still out there?): 2016 was a clusterf**k of a year for me. Although I collected many things that I thought were interesting or amusing, I did not post most of them. I thought that I should tend to more important matters, and I had many of those last year. This year is starting out somewhat less busy, and so I will try to be more timely about adding things to this odd little web page. However, some of those items from last year might still have some informational or entertainment value. So, every now and then, I will pull some old stuff off the heap and post it here. Thus, the timeline might seem to be a bit out of whack for while. (Somewhat like my lectures, I suppose.) We will see how it goes in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, send me an email and let me know what's up!

Feb. 6, 2017

Hilarious! iTunes terms and conditions written as a graphic novel. Even better, each page is done in a different cartoon style. If all legal crap was presented in this manner, more people might actually read it.

Feb. 5, 2017

Chris Cillizza contemplates the possibility that all of the chaos coming from White House is part of some cunning plan. I usually abide by the dictum of "Don't attribute to malice what is more likely explained by incompetence". Most screw ups are not part of a plan. But you can never be sure, especially with this crowd whose approach is far outside the norm. Are they really a bunch of bumblef**ks? Or are they just distracting us while they hatch their nefarious schemes?

Feb. 4, 2017

Kristoff points out that Canada is stepping up as the U.S. steps back. I wish it wasn't so cold up there. Maybe Vancouver...?

Feb. 3, 2017

Einstein was a regular guy. Sometimes.

Exploding balls. Two goofs over-inflating a soccer ball and football (Or a footie and an American footie as they describe them.) and then filming the results in super slow motion. It's fun to think about the physics of the explosion as the balls are torn apart. But I don't know why it takes three minutes of video to show 2 seconds of explosions, even in super slo-mo. As some of you know, I very much enjoy a good explosion. It's great fun right up the point where someone loses an eye.

Feb. 2, 2017

Go ahead. Be messy. It's good for you.

Feb. 1, 2017

Delete Uber. Couldn't happen to a nicer company.

Hackers gotta hack. (Actually, guests were locked out, not in. But it's still kind of funny.)

Jan. 31, 2017

Not every country is closing its doors. Our neighbors to the north have the welcome sign out.

Jan. 30, 2017

Wow - what a weekend. So much commentary - it's impossible to keep up with it all. Jean-Louis Gassee has some perspective from Silicon Valley. I always like reading what he has to say.

And some response from tech companies and CEOs.

Jan. 29, 2017

Cringely's 2017 technology predictions, parts 1 and 2. It's a little late for New Year's predictions, but there doesn't seem to be much else going on these days...

Cringely doesn't write as much as he used to, and what he does write isn't as good as when he was in his prime. But he makes interesting predictions every year, and some of them can be very off-the-wall. The one that got my attention was his prediction that Intel will sell off their fab facilites 2017. Intel is in some trouble, but they are probably not yet that desperate. It seems inconceivable to have an Intel that didn't make its own chips. We will see if Cringely is right.

Jan. 28, 2017

Inspiring. Former NASA engineer finds acclaim at 98.

Jan. 27, 2017

An interesting (and somewhat long) interview with an engineer who is neck-deep in the development of autonomous automobiles (auto autos): Gill Pratt on self-driving cars.

Jan. 26, 2017

The firehose outpouring of executive orders, proclamations, crazy photo ops, tweets, bald-faced lies, and other nonsense coming from the White House is breathtaking. It is impossible to keep up with it all. A commentator on the radio likened it to a "denial of service attack" on the public and the media. There is so much coming at us that we become paralyzed. It seems to be an apt analogy. And maybe part of a plan? (Are they that clever?) It will be interesting to see if Trump and his minions can keep up the pace for long.

Jan. 25, 2017

Orwell is back. Kellyanne's "Alternative facts" comment has caused "1984" to climb to the top of the Amazon bestseller list. The last time I read it was 33 years ago - it's probably time for another reading. The Big Brother line that I always remember: "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength."

Jan. 24, 2017

For what it's worth: 50 best jobs in America, based on some nebulously defined combination of number of openings, salary, and job satisfaction rating.

Jan. 23, 2017

We are off to slam-banging start! This is gonna be fun! In the same way that fighting crocodiles on a burning ship that is headed over a waterfall is fun. As always with Trump, size matters - hands and crowds both much too small. The best part, though, was Kellyanne Conway's "alternative facts" remark. You know that that line will show up in some of my lectures in the days ahead. If only Mother Nature would allow us to use alternative facts - being an engineer would be easy.

Many people are despondent about the new administration and see nothing but doom and gloom in the future. However, we have survived 44 previous presidencies, and we will probably survive this one, too. While we gnash our teeth over the our domestic drama, it us helpful to remember that the U.S. is not the center of the universe. In fact, in many parts of the world, life is improving significantly, as pointed out by Nicolas Kristof. Perhaps some of you were lucky enough to see Kristof when he visited ISU a year or so ago. His articles are always worth reading.

More promising news. In the midst of the "much bigger than the inaugural" protest marches, there is evidence that people have not yet lost their sense of humor. Dana Milbank lists some of his favorites signs seen at the protest. Here are more (somewhat less PG) from Politcal Humor and Jezebel. (Any google search will show you a million of these.) I have always been curious as to why one side of the political spectrum seems to be completely humorless. For me, life would be very sad if I couldn't occasionally have a good laugh at some of the absurd things that happen around me - including the silly things that I do myself.

Jan. 20, 2017

National Geographic's choices for best pictures of 2016. The photography is outstanding, although the subjects are not necessarily beautiful. Every one of the pictures is thought-provoking, though. (Nat Geo has has lots of beautiful wildlife and travel photos, if you want some feel-good imagery).

Jan. 19, 2017

Bald eagles were once virtually extinct. Their survival and re-emergence is one of the signature successes of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. You can spot eagles flying (or possibly eating some dead thing on the ground) near Ames on any day of the year. In fact, they are now so plentiful in some places" that they are becoming pests. Over about four decades, we've gone from "How do we save the eagles?" to "What do we do with all these scofflaw eagles?" It's a good problem to have.

Today is my favorite holiday of the year: National Popcorn Day. Why? Because I practically live on popcorn. Nearly every evening we make a giant batch of popcorn (popped in a pan on the stove - none of microwave shit for us) and enjoy it with a refreshing beverage as our evening snack. If there is ever a popcorn crop failure, leading to popcorn famine, I will be the first to succumb. (And who is it that decides that Jan. 19 is National Popcorn Day, anyway?)

Jan. 18, 2017

After three years, the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is being stopped. How is this even possible? In this day and age, how can a giant airplane filled with people simply disappear? When I leave the house, I have two - and sometimes three - GPS gadgets on me that could be set up to constantly report my whereabouts. Why doesn't every airplane in the world have this same capability? I don't get it.

Not surprisingly, Zuckerberg has some minions that manage his facebook page. Even Zuckerberg knows that you should not waste your own time on Facebook.

Jan. 17, 2017

Lack of security in the internet-of-things. Some of you have heard me ranting and raving about the security problems that IoT devices present, and about how we will have to keep an eye on our internet-connected doorbells and toothbrushes, lest they become conscripted into an a evil bot army and turn against us. IoT-based malware hit the big time last fall, when hackers zapped the web site of Brian Krebs with a denial-of-service attack using web cameras and other IoT crip-crap. (Krebs was targeted because he makes lots of enemies by investigating and exposing hackers.) They knocked his web site off-line for a few days. This was followed a month later by a much more massive attack that brought down big chunks of the internet for the better part of day. Now Krebs is back with follow up, exposing some of the culprits in the attacks from last fall. It is all very interesting reading. Remember: Don't turn your back on your vacuum cleaner or your toaster - they are out to get you. More seriously, this all means that those of you who want to be embedded-systems engineers must begin learning proper security measures in order to protect the systems that you will design. Regrettable, but necessary.

Jan. 16, 2017

Robert Ubell, writing in IEEE spectrum, discussed the "failure" of MOOCs (massive open online courses) offered by many universities over the last few years. He hinges his claim of failure on the low completion rates of the courses. I'm not sure that I agree with his assessment. (Many of the commenters objected strongly.) But MOOCs have definitely not yet displaced conventional university courses, as many had predicted when MOOCs were a new thing.

Jan. 15, 2017

Here is an odd historical coincidence - today is the 50th anniversary of the first Super Bowl, then known as the "AFL-NFL World Championship Game", with a much more non-descript half-time show. At that first big game, the Packers beat the Chiefs 35-10. Both teams were in the playoffs today (but not against each other) - the Packers won and the Chiefs lost. Some things never change.

Jan. 10, 2017

Contrary to everyone else, Intel says that Moore's Law is not yet dead.

Yikes! Toddlers wielding guns.

Jan. 9, 2017

Ten years of the iPhone.

Still confused about ground in a circuit? These authors attempt to explain. Maybe it will help your understanding. (Or not.)

Jan. 6, 2017

At the end of EE 201 last semester, we talked briefly about the War of Currents between Edison and Westinghouse in the 1880's, leading to our current AC power distribution system. Westinghouse was bankrolling the ideas put forth by Tesla. The Wikipedia article gives a fairly comprehensive description of those events.

And, if you are short on time, here is a pithier tldr-version of the face-off between Edison and Tesla. (I also liked the Einstein/Hawking, Gates/Jobs and Picasso/Bob Ross battles. And if you don't know Bob Ross, check out out some of his old PBS videos on NetFlix -- he's a hoot.)

Jan. 5, 2017

The Amazon Echo became a big deal last year. Now the fight has been joined with the appearance of the Google Home gadget. Here is a glimpse of the upcoming epic battle for dominance in the realm of kitchen bots.

Jan. 4, 2017

As things continue to unravel here in the U.S., it might be a good year (or a good four years) to get away for a while. Here are 52 suggestions for travel destinations from the NY Times. I've been to some of these places, and perhaps I will make it to a few more this year. Hopefully, you can get away for a while, too. Some fun travel certainly beats sitting at home, waiting for the next round of hilarity from our tweeter-in-chief.

Jan. 1, 2017

It's the time of year for resolutions and advice on how to improve yourself. Here are three items that I enjoyed.

Dec. 21, 2016

Winter Solstice! In Ames, the solstice occurred at 4:44 a.m., and our shortest day is 9 hours and 7 minutes. In Helsinki, Finland, it was only 5 hours and 49 minutes. Flipping to the southern hemisphere, the length of the day for the summer solstice in Christchurch, New Zealand (latitude of -43.8°) is 15 hours and 26 minutes. (There just aren't that many cities at high latitudes in the southern hemisphere.)

Dec. 16, 2016

I've completed another trip around the sun - that makes about 32.8 billion miles so far. I'm starting to get tired.

Today is also the last day of the Fall 2016 semester. The end of a semester is always bittersweet - ecstasy that the thing is finally over (particularly this semester) and a bit of sadness because people that I have known and worked with for a while will be heading off to exciting new places and challenges. Most likely, I will never see them again. Sniff. But such is life.

Old stuff